The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was passed by Congress 1 month after 25 people died in a train crash in L.A. Investigators found that just before the accident, the train engineer who was texting on his cell phone missed a signal indicating that a freight train was ahead of him on the same track and that he shouldn’t have proceeded on this track. The train crashed at full speed in the freight train killing 25 people and injuring many of the 300 passengers on board. 5 weeks after the accident, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was passed by Congress, requiring that all trains be equipped with positive train control system by the end of 2015.
Positive Train Control is a basic crash avoidance system that monitors speed limits and track signals electronically and signal to the engineer if something is wrong. If the engineer doesn’t respond to the signal, the Positive Train Control system automatically takes over and decrease the speed or stop the train.
The rail industry has been pushing hard to delay the upgrade and have been trying to push the end of 2015 deadline even further. If the railroad industry had been more proactive and the system had been implemented immediately after the Rail Safety Improvement Act was passed, train accidents such as the Amtrak Accident (see previous blog) that happened two days ago and killed 7 people as well the Metro-North derailment that happened in New York in 2013 and killed 4 passengers could have been avoided.
See a Rachel Maddow Video on this subject here