Even though there’s a government deadline requiring commuter railroads to install anti-crash technology (also known as positive train control or PTC), new reports show that as many as two-thirds may fail to meet it by the end of the year. PTC systems stop preventable and fatal crashes from happening, but data shows that I is currently in operation on less than one-quarter of all passenger railways across the country.
Positive train control systems stop trains before accidents happen. PTC systems monitor and control certain train movements; they do this by gathering various types of location, direction and speed data. In simple terms, PTC systems stop trains from moving when others fail to take timely corrective action.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 13 of the total 29 commuter railroads plan to seek an extension. Congress first said that rail companies needed to complete installation by 2015, later changing it to 2018. Some railway companies will qualify for an extension on installation, which will give them until 2020 to complete the work. However, for railroads that fail to receive extensions, and have not yet installed anti-crash systems, is commuter safety falling off to the wayside?
According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), positive train control systems prevent the following types of accidents – which typically result in numerous fatalities and serious and debilitating injuries:
Although PTC systems protect commuters from many different kinds of accidents, they do not protect against all of the hazards associated with train accidents and crashes. For example, PTC systems are unable to protect against certain kinds of operator error, improper vehicular (e.g. motor vehicles) movement through train crossings, accidents caused by track or equipment failure (as well as defective equipment), or when a person trespasses on train tracks.
Train derailments, collisions and other accidents can result in a variety of serious injuries. Some of the most common injuries associated with train accidents are:
One of the major obstacles that the installation requirement faces is enforcement. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), it has not yet determined how to oversee railway companies that fail to meet the deadline or obtain extensions. One of the reasons that some railroad companies may not comply with Congress’ requirement is because PTC installations are costly. Nevertheless, railroad companies must prioritize the lives of commuters and workers over short-term financial profits.
The truth is that PTC systems can – and in some cases have – saved lives. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that there have been at least 150 train crashes since 1969 that PTC systems could have prevented. In those 150 accidents, 300 people died and hundreds of others sustained serious injuries. PTC systems can prevent these kinds of accidents from happening, and save people from disabling injuries that often result in time off from work and expensive medical bills.
As this story continues to develop, we will be sure to keep our readers updated. The U.S. Transportation Secretary has vowed to keep encouraging commuter railways to meet the deadline, but with the end of the year steadily approaching and so many railways behind schedule, this seems unlikely.
If you or a loved one was injured in a train crash or collision, please contact our Philadelphia train accident lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.