The recent fatal train derailment in Washington state has renewed concerns
over the same safety issues that continue to plague American roadways.
Although federal officials from the National Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB) are still investigating the crash, they have confirmed that Amtrak
Cascades passenger train 501 was traveling close to 50 mph over the speed
limit when it derailed on a curved stretch of track over Interstate 5
near DuPont. The crash killed 3 victims and injured 62 others.
As investigators sift through the wreckage and continue to piece together
the moments prior to the derailment, many officials, advocates, and families
have called attention to critical safety measures that could have prevented
the crash – as well as other major U.S.
train accidents in recent years. Unfortunately, as the recent derailment shows, there
is still a great deal of work to be done when it comes to improving railway
safety and overcoming hurdles standing in the way.
Positive Train Control
One of the major issues re-introduced in the wake of the deadly crash concerns
Positive Train Control (PTC), a type of computerized safety system that
can automatically slow or stop trains during collision critical moments.
In this particular accident, some experts claim, PTC could have slowed
the train down to a safer speed as it approached the curved track, thereby
preventing the derailment. Positive Train Control has also been cited
by NTSB as a safety measure that would have prevented the devastating
Philadelphia Amtrak derailment in 2015 – a crash that killed 9 victims
and injured more than 200 other passengers – and the deadly Metrolink
collision in Chatsworth, California caused by a distracted train engineer
who ran a red light signal because he was text messaging.
Positive train control is by no means new technology – it has been
recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board since 1970. According
to NTSB officials, positive train control has been proven to significantly
reduce crash risks – including those caused by the same types of
concerns and issues that have led to many major crashes. These include:
- Excessive speeds and derailment
- Track signal errors
- Single-track train collisions
- Train engineer distraction
Although PTC has been hailed for its effectiveness, it has still yet to
be implemented across all U.S. railways. Despite undergoing billions in
federally-funded updates, for example, the stretch of track carrying Amtrak
train 501 on its inaugural Point Defiance Bypass did not have PTC operational
at the time of the crash. This, many advocates state, is a problem that
stems from the politicization of issues involving new safety measures
– even if those safety measures have been proven to save lives.
Since the NTSB has reported on Positive Train Control technology as a means
to reduce devastating train accidents, there have been over 150 major
accidents on railways across the U.S. – resulting in nearly 300
deaths and thousands of injuries – which experts say could have
been prevented. Unfortunately, as we see in many cases of corporations,
profits are often placed over people, which is largely why PTC has yet
to be nationally used by all carriers and railways.
Following the crash, many Americans have stepped forward to call out the
sluggishness behind implementing Positive Train Control. One of the biggest
challenges, they say, stems from the flood of money in politics and aggressive
lobbying tactics by major railroads. In 2015, for example, major railroads
were successful in getting Congress to delay the deadline for installing
the technology. Their arguments typically concern resources, costs, and
effort associated with installation.
With victims and families continuing to suffer tremendous tragedies in
preventable train accidents, the time is now for the federal government
to take an active role in protecting the public and putting an end to
politicizing issues of safety. Experts have confirmed the technology and
resources for installation and implementation of PTC exist today (some
railways are already using it) – which means the issue has become
a moral choice for regulators and lawmakers to make. Failing to make PTC
a priority means allowing tragedies like this to continue.
At Biren Law Group, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are advocates
for the injured and the wronged. Over the years we have been fighting
for local residents, we have seen many tragedies that could and should
have been prevented. These sad and profoundly difficult experiences are
only made worse when corporations shirk their responsibilities, fail to
make needed change, and continue to harm others in the same ways. We are
proud to have played a role in contributing to such changes – including
better safety standards for workers who use industrial equipment –
and continue to use our experience as a means to fight for victims and
raise awareness about issues that benefit public safety.
If you have questions about your rights following a preventable accident
– from train crashes and car accidents to accidents involving defective
products – do not hesitate to
contact us for a FREE consultation.