Fatal Commuter Train Accident in NYC Metro Area- Can They Be Prevented?

Metro-North Train Strikes Bronx Pedestrian on Tracks

Commuter trains can be dangerous whether you are a pedestrian or a passenger. According to a recent report from News 12 Westchester, a Metro-North train struck and killed a trespasser on the tracks in the Bronx near the Botanical Garden station earlier last month. Another report from the USA Today Network indicated that the train had been bound for Stamford, Connecticut when the fatal train accident occurred at about 3:30 p.m.

While trespassing on train tracks may be more likely to lead to a deadly collision, what do we know about the Metro-North safety record if we are commuting passengers? An article in CBS New York reminds readers that Metro-North commuter trains can lead to fatalities even if you are not walking on or crossing the train tracks. Indeed, just about one year ago a Metro-North crash in Valhalla resulted in the deaths of six people. Are we any safer today?

According to the article, the federal government has promised to provide $350 million to make safety improvements to the rail lines, and it has committed an additional $6.5 million to campaigns aimed at raising awareness about train accident prevention. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not completed its investigation of the Valhalla crash despite the fact that a year has passed. Once the NTSB does conclude its investigation, the article suggests that it may have additional safety recommendations.

Preventing Train and Commuter Rail Accidents

According to data reported by Mass Transit Magazine, passenger train accidents account for a relatively small number of annual derailments, and the total number of serious injuries and fatalities looks small compared with other forms of transportation (for example, car accident injuries). In 2013, for instance, only 12 out of 1,277 total derailments involved passenger trains. However, even 12 accidents should be enough for us to take notice, especially when many of these derailments may have been preventable.

The Mass Transit Magazine article reports that train derailments typically result from one of three factors:

  • About one-third occur because of track problems;
  • Another one-third of train derailments result from equipment issues; and
  • Approximately one-third of all train accidents happen because of human error.

Train crashes caused by human error are preventable. Furthermore, some of the other reasons for train derailments also suggest that there is more we can do to prevent accidents. The article suggests the following for those who engineer and maintain rail systems:

  • Regularly checking for broken or defective rails, which results in a large number of derailments;
  • Regularly evaluating track geometry;
  • Taking steps to prevent track buckles; and
  • Requiring employees to comply with rules and regulations.

In short, whether it is human error or a track problem, most train crashes can be avoided. If you or someone you love was injured in a commuter rail crash, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine your rights.

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