New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) has delayed the implementation of a life-saving technology due to technical setbacks and possible administrative mismanagement. According to a recent Bloomberg article, NJ Transit may not meet the December 31 deadline to install Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC is a technology that can prevent crashes by automatically applying the brakes to trains.
This is alarming news given NJ Transit’s history of safety violations, crashes and mechanical problems. NJ Transit, which was called a “national disgrace” by Governor Phil Murphy, has a worse safety record than its peers. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, NJ Transit had more accidents than any of the other 10 major railroad transit companies during 2016. NJ Transit also had the highest number of mechanical breakdowns.
There have been notable NJ Transit railway accidents over the years. In 2016, an NJ Transit train slammed into Hoboken Terminal. The accident caused one death and more than 100 injuries. It was later determined the engineer suffered from undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, a condition which causes excessive daytime drowsiness.
Can PTC Prevent Commuter Railway Crashes?
PTC was designed to prevent accidents like the one that occurred at Hoboken station. The technology can override engineers if they fail to slow down or stop. There are instances where PTC would have prevented derailments or crashes. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), PTC would have prevented the fatal 2015 Amtrak crash that led to eight fatalities and more than 200 injuries. The NTSB’s preliminary report on the DuPont, Washington crash in late December also suggests PTC could have prevented the train from derailing.
Congress has set a deadline for December 31, 2018 for major railway companies to install PTC. NJ Transit claims it will meet this deadline. However, Phil Murphy’s new transportation chief said, “nobody can say that right now.” Additional Amtrak crashes in South Carolina and Virginia have reignited the debate over PTC.
Mass transit crash survivors or their families may have legal options to pursue damages against the railroad company or other parties. We encourage you to speak with our Atlantic City personal injury attorneys if you have questions about your legal options after a mass transit accident.