Spanish Train Driver on Phone While Train Derailed Killing 79 People [video]

Smartphones Require Smart Drivers

Driving and Cell Phones Don't Mix Well

The train driver in last week’s crash in Spain was talking on the phone when it derailed, killing 79 people, investigators say. Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was speaking to member of staff at the state-owned railway company, Renfe, they added. “Minutes before the train came off the tracks he received a call on his work phone to get indications on the route he had to take to get to Ferrol. From the content of the conversation and background noise it seems that the driver consulted a map or paper document,” a court statement said.

Crash investigators had opened the train’s “black-box” data recorder to find the cause of the crash, which left 79 people dead.

The train was travelling at 153km/h (95mph) at the time, investigators at the Court of Justice of Galicia said. The speed limit on the sharp bend where the train derailed was set at 80km/h (49mph).

Investigators say the brakes were activated shortly before the crash.

All eight carriages of the train careered off the tracks into a concrete wall as they sped around the curve on the express route between Madrid and the port city of Ferrol on the Galician coast.

Examining Judge Luis Alaez, on Sunday charged the driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, with 79 counts of reckless homicide and released him under court supervision. Officials said he had admitted negligence by being careless when rounding a bend too fast.

Garzon Amo was released from custody in Santiago de Compostela, where the crash occurred on Sunday but remains under court supervision. He must appear before a court once a week and is not allowed to leave Spain without permission. His passport has been surrendered to the judge and his license to drive a train has been suspended.

Many studies confirm driving while talking on a cell phone reduces a driver’s response time to the same levels observed in drunk drivers and the elderly. A growing body of evidence suggests that drivers that simply involve themselves in a conversation suffer debilitating distractions. Why? It diverts one’s focus.

Focus, by definition, is the adjustment for distinct vision; a center of activity, attraction and attention. Focus allows one to harness their skills, intelligence and resources and put them to work on a particular goal. Most people, at one time or another, have fallen into the trap of being a “Jack of All Trades.” What they miss is this ‘trick’ causes them to become masters of none. Life’s successes come from a laser beam approach toward tasks.

Although people like to think they can multitask, cognitive research suggests that the brain tends to focus on one major activity at a time, says Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. Talking on a cell phone may cause “inattention blindness” to anything else going on at the same time.

Sixty-six people caught up in the crash were still in the hospital on Tuesday, 15 of them critically including one child, regional health authorities said.

Many aboard the train were Catholic pilgrims heading for Santiago’s internationally celebrated annual festival honoring Saint James, a disciple of Jesus whose bones are said to rest in the city’s cathedral.
On Monday, a mass for the victims was held in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Hundreds of mourners attended the mass which was broadcast live on Spanish television.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, along with the heir to the Spanish crown, Prince Felipe, and his wife Princess Letizia, joined the grieving families and local residents in the cathedral as the city’s archbishop prayed for the dead.

Spanish train driver Garzon Amo, 52, was on the phone at the time of the accident while the train was racing at nearly twice the speed limit, derailing and killing 79 innocent people. He admitted during his court appearance Sunday that he had had a “lapse” of concentration, Spanish media have reported. The portability of today’s phone means people are no longer constrained by location. People can stay in touch with family and friends, coworkers, or conduct business and other important transactions in an instant. Talking and driving allowed a train driver the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone or perhaps 79 innocent people with one choice.

 

 

By: Cherese Jackson (Viginia)
Op-Ed

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