How Positive Train Control Can Prevent Train Accidents

Is there technology that rail systems can utilize that will prevent train accidents?

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently announced combined federal grants of $25 million to fund projects in a number of states, including California, to implement positive train control (PTC), a technology that is designed to automatically slow down trains that exceed the speed limit. PTC is slated to be mandatory for railroads and has the potential to prevent derailments, collisions, and improper track switching.

Train Accidents at  a Glance

While trains are an efficient way to transport people and cargo and railways are safer than other means  of travel, train accidents often result in catastrophic injuries and even death. In fact, the FRA has reported that there are around 3,000 train accidents every year across the Nation that result in about 1,000 injuries. Some of the leading reasons for train accidents include derailments, collisions with other trains and vehicles, conductor error (such as speeding or missing a signal), and railway negligence. The fact that trains typically travel at high rates of speed and do not provide special protection for passengers means that accidents are likely to cause significant injuries.

PTC Technology

The FRA grants are being provided to Amtrak and other rail systems across the country. These grants are in addition to over $650 million in grants that Congress has approved since 2008 to implement this technology, which has been widely deployed in the Northeast corridor. Here in California, the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district has been awarded $3 million to install PTC  as well as new signal crossing warning systems.

Nonetheless critics argue that the technology is not being implemented fast enough. While the original budget request for fiscal 2017 was $1.25 billion, the program has not been fully funded. That being said, the FRA anticipates that PTC will be deployed along more than 70,000 miles of track. Moreover, railroads will be required to install the technology in areas that have regularly scheduled commuter services.

The Takeaway

While PTC technology may ultimately safe lives, train accidents are still likely to occur. This is due to the fact that  there are numerous reasons for train accidents besides speeding. In particular, PTC technology cannot prevent conductor error or railway negligence. Passengers can also be injured simply getting on or off a train, and pedestrian accidents can still occur at railroad crossings. If you were injured in a train accident in Northern or Southern California, the experienced personal injury attorneys at the law firm of J&Y can help you obtain meaningful compensation.