Padilla Law Group, LLP

Rail industry slow to put safety measures in place

When you think about train crashes, you likely remember the same news stories others in California hear. Those accidents make compelling news, with miles of cars toppled across the tracks and hundreds of victims hospitalized or dead. What you may not realize is that train accidents occur across the U.S. every week, but only the most traumatic receive media coverage.

If you are one of the millions of riders who use trains for either business or pleasure, you may feel relatively safe inside the heavy, solid cars that carry you to your destination. However, any train is vulnerable to the most common cause of accidents on the rails: human error.

More often than you think

Collisions and derailments occur nearly every other day across the country and result in hundreds of injuries to passengers and crew. Because these accidents do not always involve multiple injuries or deaths, they may not reach the attention of the media or even of federal investigators.

Nevertheless, the same kinds of negligence that cause these so-called fender benders also cause the catastrophic accidents you hear about on the news. The crews that operate the trains that pass through your town each day carrying hazardous materials may allow themselves a moment of carelessness that sends a train careening off the tracks or into another locomotive.

Technology is slow in coming

There is a lot of talk about technology that can reduce these kinds of accidents. This system is "positive train control." The National Transportation Safety Board convinced Congress to approve and mandate this technology, allowing railroads 25 years to implement it. That deadline passed in 2015, and the railroad industry gained an extension to 2020. What may affect you most directly is that only about 25 percent of passenger rails in the country have PTC technology. When properly installed and activated, PTC can prevent trains from doing the following:

  • Going the wrong way onto a track
  • Entering a track assigned to freight trains
  • Diverting to sidings where other trains may be stopped
  • Derailing
  • Bumping into other trains in railyards

While some may think the PTC systems are redundant, you may agree that having a backup plan for when crew members are fatigued, distracted or careless is worthwhile if it protects workers and passengers from serious injury or death.

Another kind of protection you deserve is a protection of your rights if you do suffer injuries in a train accident. A skilled attorney with experience in maximizing injury claims can be of great assistance.

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