When people are responsible for transportation, it is important that they focus adamantly on the task at hand. That rule is true for everyone, but it is especially true for individuals who are responsible for vehicles of mass transportation in New York.
Sadly, because the operator of a tug boat was focused more on his laptop and cell phone than on steering a barge, he caused an accident that killed two people. The chairwoman of the safety board summarized the fatal accident well when she said, “This accident is not just about one individual’s actions, but about a new and highly troubling societal norm.”
According to reports from the safety board, the driver of the barge believed he had good reason to be using his cell phone and the company’s laptop. While he was on the water, he learned that his 6-year-old son nearly died while he was undergoing a relatively routine surgery.
In the two and a half hours before the crash, the tug boat operator made 15 calls and received six. He also used the company laptop to look up medical information. In order to communicate and research, the man left his post. When he was distracted, he failed to see a smaller vessel that was stopped ahead of them.
Although the man believed his family’s medical crisis was the top priority, his actions jeopardized the lives of numerous people and resulted in the wrongful death of a 16- and 20-year-old tourist.
The safety board disagrees with him. “When people’s lives are in your hands, whether you’re piloting a tug, conducting a train, flying a 757, or even driving home this evening, you take responsibility by giving your full attention to the safety-critical task at hand.” She went on to conclude that “there is simply no conversation or action that is important enough to risk your life or the lives of others.”
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “NTSB blames distracted operators in Ride the Ducks accident,” Paul Nussbaum, 22 June 2011