Deaths from Recent Train Crashes – All Preventable

Unfortunately, 2017 started with yet another train crash. A Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuter train crashed at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, injuring more than 100 passengers.

Fortunately, the injuries were less serious compared to the crash at Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey on September 29, 2016, which killed one bystander, injured more than 100 people and destroyed part of the historic train terminal.

This was the second Long Island train accident in a three-month span. In October, three cars of a LIRR train derailed about half a mile east of New Hyde Park station after colliding with a work train. Twenty-six people were injured in this accident.

The LIRR is the nation’s busiest commuter railroad, with about 300,000 weekday passengers on lines that stretch from Long Island’s eastern tip to Manhattan.  A safety technology, known as positive train control (PTC), was not in place when these crashes occurred. Safety advocates and railroad worker’s unions have been calling for this system to be installed to prevent train accidents for years.

Two years ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority secured a nearly $1 billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration to install this system on the LIRR and Metro-North Railroad. Officials at the authority are working to meet a 2018 deadline to install the technology although there has been criticism that the system is not further along.

The U.S. Safety Improvement Act of 2008, initiated after a Los Angeles collision between a commuter train and a freight train killed 25 people, required all railroads to have PTC in place by December 2015. With most railroads making relatively little progress, the federal government agreed to push the deadline to December 2018.

PTC works by having radio transponders that are installed on tracks and on trains communicate with each other to automatically slow down or stop a train if it’s going too fast, is about to hit another train, or violates a signal. It combines GPS, wireless radio, and other technologies, making it far more complex than originally envisioned and requires more investment and time to make it work, according to railroad companies.

Officials with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), a nonprofit trade group, defended the LIRR. “You can’t walk into a Home Depot and buy a PTC kit,” Bill Terry, APTA senior legislative representative said in a statement.

Despite the challenges, the LIRR has said it has made progress in getting PTC in place, installing 971 transponders along the LIRR’s tracks. Between the LIRR and Metro-North, the MTA has to install more than 9,000 transponders on tracks and 1,000 communications units on trains — all of which have to work with other railroads that operate on the same tracks. Project officials have estimated the LIRR’s PTC project is about 30 percent complete.

If you, or someone you care about, has been injured or has been involved in a train accident, contact Rosenberg & Gluck, personal injury attorneys, for a free and confidential legal consultation to learn more about your options.