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Investigations and Recent Accidents Reveal Safety Shortcomings on Local Railways


In the wake of the tragic Amtrak crash on May 12, renewed attention is being given to the safety of passengers on trains and ways in which current safety measures are falling short. In a recent investigatory report conducted by CBS2 News, NJ TRANSIT trains were found to be traveling at excessive rates of speed. A journalist with a speedometer found that, in an area where train speed should not exceed 60 mph, some were traveling at 69, and even 72, mph. While trains should be traveling at between 20 and 25 mph when coming into the station, the investigation revealed that some were traveling at 38 mph—nearly twice the recommended speed.

One problem is that recommended speeds and speed limits are not posted along the train route. Engineers are instead given time tables and must adjust their speeds accordingly, which could lead to excessive rates of speed to make up for delays elsewhere along their routes. Excessive speed was a major factor in the May 12 Amtrak crash. Investigations into the crash have shown that the train was traveling at almost twice the recommended speed of 50 mph when it derailed.

Since the May 12 crash, Amtrak has already taken measure to improve the safety of its trains. Pursuant to a recommendation from the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak trains traveling through the curved section of track where the May 12 derailment occurred are now required to slow to 50 mph. The rail company has also announced that it will be installing inward-facing cameras in 70 of the trains traveling along the Northeast Corridor. These cameras will provide a way to monitor the engineer’s activities and to inspect moments before a crash to know if the engineer’s attention was diverted from the tracks for some reason. In 2008, a collision in Northridge, California, of two Metrolink trains is believed to have occurred due to the engineer texting while steering the train and failing to notice a red stop light. Investigators are still trying to determine whether or not the conductor of the May 12 crash, Brian Bostian, was distracted by his phone immediately before the crash.

Several lawsuits have been filed regarding the May 12 Amtrak crash. One such lawsuit was filed by a conductor working on the train at the time of the crash: Emilio Fonseca of Kearny, New Jersey. In his complaint, he alleges that Amtrak had created unsafe conditions on its rail line, and that negligence and carelessness led to the crash. Additionally, a lawsuit filed by four passengers points out that Amtrak was not using the latest in speed monitoring and braking technology, and that the outdated safety measures were a factor in the crash.

As rail infrastructure ages and needs for major upgrades are ignored, accidents and injuries are bound to occur. If you or someone you know is injured in a train accident, compensation is available—and deserved—to help you pay your medical bills, reimburse you for time off work, and compensate you for your pain and suffering. Contact skilled personal injury attorney Andrew R. Jacobs for a free consultation on your claims at 973-532-9681. Call today for help on your claims throughout New Jersey and New York.

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