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Should We Question Our Train Conductors?

December 6, 2013
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If you have been injured because of operator error our White Plains operator error accident lawyers can represent you and assert your rights. People should fear negligent operators of mass transit systems. Public transportation systems are vital to our way of life. We need to be confident that our public transit operators are safe. Unfortunately, public confidence in Metro-North’s ability to keep customers safe is a growing concern. The Metro-North derailment on Sunday Dec. 1, 2013 was caused by operator error. MTA union officials comment that the conductor, William Rockefeller, is to blame for the fatal derailment. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo states the cause of the crash, “will be operator error, it appears.” Cuomo then raises the question, “is there any way to correct operational error?” Yes there is, with a technology called “positive train control.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) said the Hudson Line train was going 82 mph on a 30 mph curve before it derailed, killing four passengers and leaving dozens more injured. The NTSB has not released an official comment as to the cause of the crash due to the ongoing investigation. NTSB officials ruled out alcohol as a possibility causing the crash. The accident occurred after tumultuous year of safety errors and train accidents.

MTA plans to implement new safety devices to avoid future accidents. Critics claim that the accident could have been avoided if positive train control or PTC was installed on its system. PTC is collision avoidance system and reduces operator error by automatically avoiding causes of derailment. MTA and other railroads seek to delay all PTC systems until at least 2018. The railroads are in violation of Federal Law and regulations. Congress passed a 2008 law requiring PTC technology on about 60,000 miles of the 160,000 mile U.S. rail network. The law was passed weeks after 25 people died in a Los Angeles commuter train crash. All major 40 railroads are required to install the systems.

According to a NTSB report, lack of a positive-train-control system was a contributing factor in a May 2011 train collision in Hoboken, New Jersey, that left 30 injured. PTC technology works by communicating with thousands of towers along railroad tracks and in locomotives providing pin-point locations and speed data for trains and railroad conductors. Railroads seek to delay the installation of the technology, which is required on corridors that transport hazardous waste and materials or passengers. PTC systems already exist. PTC systems would be money well spent, but MTA officials are not willing to front the millions of dollars needed strictly for train safety. Technologies like PTC or safety changes are already being put in effect, claims one MTA spokeswoman.

Governor Cuomo ordered the MTA to put all employees through a safety review after the Dec. 1, 2013 crash. In September, 2013 the MTA created a six-member panel to study safety culture and any potential links among the incidents. It’s already moving forward with a confidential reporting system, where employees report safety violations to officials. Metro North is known for its lax safety culture. PTC is a proven and effective technology in identifying safety issues and lowering injury and accident exposure. It’s a start for safety, but how can you fix structural problems like outdated rail lines and sharp curves? We are stuck with our outdated systems, for now operators must avoid dangers on the track and keep commuters safe.

In the future, PTC can be used to help trains slow down for curves, avoid head on collisions, avoid derailments, and provide operators with more crucial information about track conditions and rail traffic. The human error factor can never be eradicated. We need systems like PTC to protect our commuters. If you have been injured due to operator error on a train, subway, bus, taxi, car service, tour bus, double-decker bus, or limo, ferry or any other transportation service provider, contact our White Plains operator error accident lawyers for a free consultation.

 
The Law Offices of Michael H. Joseph