Could Technology Have Prevented the Tragic NJ Train Crash?

Posted on October 10, 2016 at 12:00pm by

iStock_000011321000_Large (1)Experts are saying that technology might have been able to prevent the recent train crash in NJ. After the accident killed one and injured more than 100 people, many panicked and began searching for any answers on how to prevent future calamities. There have been many promising safety suggestions, but it appears that people in the business have known how to improve train safety for years now.

In fact, there is already a well-accepted technology that makes trains safer. The solution is known as positive train control. Positive train control has existed in some form since the 1990s. It has been implemented successfully in some areas, but has yet to make its way to the NJ trains yet.

After seeing the numbers behind positive train control, the United States Congress ruled that all American rail companies would eventually need to make the switch. The deadline was initially set for 2015, but after encountering difficulties, Congress voted to extend the deadline. It is deeply unfortunate that the change did not come in time to prevent this tragedy.

How Could New Safety Systems Prevent a Train Crash?

Positive train control allows a computer system in the train to monitor the speed and location of the train. If for whatever reason the train is in a dangerous situation, positive train control will alter the speed or even stop the train in order to prevent an accident.

This way if the engineer is unable to slow the train down to a safe speed, or perhaps the engineer is injured or guilty of negligence, the passengers will still be able to avoid danger. Many trains have already implemented this system, and it has effectively succeeded in preventing crashes.

Experts at the NTSB estimate that if the system had been fully implemented when it was first developed it could have saved 65 lives, prevented 1,100 injuries and avoided millions of dollars in damages. We need to prioritize the implementation of this and other safety systems. In the meantime, some experts are coming up with other safety solutions, such as requiring a co-operator in the train to take control if the main engineer is injured.

Donald G. Targan & Associates is a New Jersey personal injury law firm with a passion for empowering victims of injury.


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