What Could Have Prevented the Washington Train Crash?

Photo of a coffin at a funeral service in a cemetery

Photo of a coffin at a funeral service in a cemeteryIf you’ve been following the news lately, chances are you heard about the devastating train crash that recently occurred up in Washington state. If you haven’t, here’s a summary: in mid-December, Amtrak Cascades 501 was making its inaugural journey from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon when it entered a curved overpass at 80mph. The curve had a posted speed limit of 30mph. As the train entered the curve, it jumped the track, sending the front engine and several passenger cars over the edge of the overpass, some into the rush hour traffic passing below. Over 100 people suffered injuries and at least three died in the accident.

Speed was likely the primary cause of the train crash. Could something have been done to prevent the train from speeding into the curve?

Positive Train Control: Could It Have Saved Amtrak Cascades 501?

Positive train control (PTC) is a system that utilizes GPS, wireless radio and computers to keep track of train movements and speed. When the system identifies a train that is moving too fast or may cause a train accident, it can slow or even stop the train without human input. The Federal Railroad Administration has called PTC the single most important advancement in rail safety technology in over 100 years.

Around 40 percent of train crashes are caused by human error. By universally adopting PTC in the United States, it is believed that a large number of human error-caused train crashes could be prevented. This is why the federal government has mandated the installation of PTC nationwide by the end of 2018. Amtrak has equipped 49 percent of its trains with PTC, and 67 percent of its rails.

PTC was installed on the section of track where the Amtrak derailment occurred. However, it was not active, and is not planned on being active until second quarter 2018.

If you suffer personal injury in a train accident in Louisiana, our law firm can help.


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