| Added On February 4, 2010
Just a few days ago, Federal investigators stated that railway companies may be required to install video recorders in train cabs to prevent the operators from being distracted while driving the trains. This is an important new requirement, since railroad workers now are not similarly monitored by remote control camera. The reasons for this new level of control are because of the increase of accidents by train operators who are distracted on the job.
Last year a head-on collision killing 25 people in Los Angeles, CA, was blamed on the commuter train engineer having sent and received text messages on his cellular telephone. It seems almost unbelievable, that the engineer of a commuter rail train was chatting on the “celly” while driving the train. The fact that he could have been sending and receiving those tiny, not well-lit LED text messages in incredible, what was this person thinking? To put the lives of potentially hundreds of people on the line, for a few moments of entertainment is beyond my capacity to understand. That is because, it was determined that moments before the crash, this engineer had run a red signal light and hit a Union Pacific freight train traveling in its path. How do you miss another train?
I remember my days riding in commuter rail trains. I have ridden in trains in most major cities and in some European countries as well. I have to admit, I have never, ever, not even once thought of the fact that the engineer was not paying attention while the train was careening through the countryside or whoosing under city tunnels to underground terminals. No, I was on board playing heated and emotional laden card games, with gents and lads I would have naturally only met moments before, and was usually intent of having the time of my life – just passing the time. You see, out of the window of a train car, the passengers will have no idea what is happening up front. And how could we? Our field and perspective is to enjoy the ride. The duty and performance of our train engineer is to drive the train. Separate and never equal, our duties are distinct and full of purpose. I am meant to look out the window, take a nap, meet new friends or read a novel. The train engineer is entrusted with only one duty – and that is to drive the train in the safest manner possible.
Adding monitored video cameras may go a long way to making sure that train engineers are doing their jobs in a safe and reliable manner. If the commuter train in the accident last year had been equipped with a video camera, the railroad owners would have been possibly able to monitor their engineers, and avert a deadly crash. If railroad engineers are being watched, it will possibly prevent them from making and receiving texts, telephone calls and messages – especially when they should be concentrating on their jobs at hand.
Congress is interested in going a step further. A new invention called a “positive train control” has been considered to solve one aspect of this problem. Congress has passed legislation which will require rail companies to install complex computer systems that will have the ability to stop trains that are speeding out of control or are on a course to collision in a wreck with other trains. The controls will be required to be in place by the end of the year 2015, and will serve to make traveling by train safer for everyone who rides trains.
These and other serious matters deserve serious attention. If you have had an accident while riding in a commuter rail train, give us a call at Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or email us at www.ledgerlaw.com. We can discuss your options with you and review the accident on the merits.