Tuesday's Amtrak Crash Could Have Been Prevented

Photo: Joseph Kaczmarek/ Associated Press
The death toll in Tuesday's horrific Amtrak crash has been raised to eight, with scores more wounded. One of the most upsetting revelations, though, has been that the accident could have been prevented. Had a basic safety feature been installed on that stretch of tracks, it would have kept the crash from occurring. 

That technology, called Positive Train Control, is meant to be installed on tracks across the country, but its roll-out has been delayed. The system would have automatically slowed Amtrak 188 before the train reached 106 miles per hour on a curve with a speed limit of just 50, which occurred at the time of the crash. 

"Positive Train Control overrides operator error and slows or stops a train if the engineer misses a signal or is going too fast," reports NPR. It's essentially a GPS-enabled autopilot that kicks in if something appears to be wrong. 

In 2008, a commuter train outside of Los Angeles crashed into a freight train, killing 25. The crash, the deadliest in L.A.'s history, occurred because the driver was texting and missed a signal. In the aftermath of that incident, Congress passed a bill requiring this new technology to be installed on tracks nationwide

Per the 2008 ruling, PTC should have been in place across the country by the end of 2015. Still a few months from its deadline at the time of Tuesday's crash, Amtrak has been slowly installing the infrastructure. But, intense industry lobbying has Congress considering pushing the deadline another five years, to 2020. 

On Wednesday, while search and recovery efforts were still in high gear, Congress also rejected a measure to increase funding for the country's railways. 


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