Nashville, TN (PRWEB) October 26, 2012
Drivers distracted by cell phones aren’t an issue for the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority anymore. A patented new device called the Phone Blox is helping the MTA hold distracted driver incidents to an all-time low.
The Nashville MTA has long-recognized the problem of distracted driving. Because the authority is self-insured, accidents reflect directly on the MTA's bottom line. As a result, Nashville has a zero-tolerance policy for distractions while driving. This includes radio dispatch communications and cell phone use.
Earl Rhodes, Safety Manager for the Nashville MTA, said, “We developed a zero-tolerance policy that stated cell phones could not be used while the bus was in operation. We went a little further than that, and we got a product called Phone Blox that we installed on our buses to help our operators stay off the phone.”
The policy has led to a sharp decline in accidents.
When there is an incident, Rhodes explained, “I check [video records] to see if the operator is on the cell phone, to see if that contributed to the cause of the accident.
“Since Phone Blox, there have not been any accidents while an operator was using a cell phone.”
The elegance of the Phone Blox device is in its simplicity. Not much bigger than a coffee cup, Phone Blox is a sturdy steel box that locks shut whenever a vehicle - in this case, a city bus - is running. Drivers simply place their cell phones in the box and close the lid before starting their vehicles.
As long as the vehicle is running, the phone is safely locked away.
St. Louis entrepreneur and inventor Ginny Foster, founder of Redline Electronics, developed the Phone Blox specifically to combat distracted driving.
“I was standing on the sidewalk in St. Louis, where I went to school, and so many people were driving by, eyes glued to their cell phones," said Foster, a graduate of St. Louis University’s engineering program. "The majority of them were texting. If I’d been crossing the street, I don't think any of them would have seen me."
The elegance of Foster's patented design for the Phone Blox is its simplicity. "This does nothing to the phone," she explained. "No applications to download, no settings to change. No signals to jam.
"It's a box that simply locks while the vehicle ignition is turned on.”
The Nashville MTA was recognized with the 2010 American Public Transportation Association GOLD Safety Award for its cell phone program.
Paul Ballard, Nashville MTA's chief operating officer, said that the zero-tolerance policy would lead to drivers losing their jobs. “Unfortunately, we had to deal with grievances and ultimately arbitrations over these issues because we have a zero tolerance policy,” he said.
“When you use a cell phone while operating a revenue vehicle, it is grounds for termination,” Ballard added. “We didn’t want to be in that situation. This takes this kind of conflict completely out of the picture.”
Adjudicating a grievance can be an expensive proposition regardless of the outcome. By eliminating an entire class of conflict, tens of thousands of dollars can be saved in legal costs and lost time.
Ballard noted that there were a number of grievances filed over cell phone terminations prior to installing Phone Blox. “Since we implemented Phone Blox, I can’t remember the last time we actually had [to go to] arbitration on cell phone usage.”
Nashville MTA driver Nancy was skeptical. “At first I didn’t think it was going to work. I thought it was kind of a crazy idea. But it has changed my mind. I think if other drivers used it, they would feel the same.”
"We are all tempted. It doesn’t matter,” she added. “If you have it there and hear it ringing, you’re gonna want to answer it. It’s just a natural reaction. If something happens in that split second, you are done.”
Nancy appreciates being able to keep her phone with her. "I found it a big relief, actually, for a phone to be in there. I’m not distracted in any way. I’m not worrying about a phone call, text message or anything like that. [Phone Blox] strikes a good balance between the two, safety and convenience. You still have it with you.”
Nashville MTA puts a premium on their experienced drivers. Bus operators develop relationships with regular riders. Replacing a terminated driver is an expensive proposition. Weeks of training and removing a veteran driver from a route to monitor the probationary operator add to the cost.
Foster describes her invention as just another piece of safety gear. “It’s like mirror or turn signal,” she said. “It can be part of the equipment, and it serves to prevent accidents.
“Just like drivers check their mirrors or turn on the blinker, the cell phone goes into the Phone Blox. Drivers can hang onto their cell phones, and management knows their customers and drivers are safe from distracted driving accidents.”
For more additional information on the Phone Blox, visit: http://redlineelectronics.com/