Amtrak Crash is Another Example of the Need for Safety Systems and Technology

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Cause of the 2018 Amtrak Crash

It was recently determined by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that a 2018 fatal Amtrak crash near Columbia, South Carolina, was caused by an easily preventable human error and lack of safety systems and technologies.

The NTSB has determined that the collision of an Amtrak train and a stationary CSX freight train was caused by the lack of a safety system in place by CSX to prevent human errors. The board blames the lack of safety consideration of track updates and missing safety steps as the cause of the accident. The NSTB also found that the delayed implementation of a safety system, Positive Train Control, as a contributor to the accident. If the Positive Train Control was in place, the Amtrak train would have stopped prior to hitting the train and switched track.

Holding Negligent Parties Accountable

Although the NTSB can make suggestions to CSX and for Positive Train Control to be implemented in Amtrak trains, it does not have the authority to punish or force companies to use such practices or technologies. Even though the NTSB’s findings are meant to improve safety, their findings are not permitted to be used in court. When companies are not held accountable, safety systems are often not put into place or enforced.

Positive Train Control

An example of this is the delay of the Positive Train Control system. Positive Train Control is a GPS-based technology that stops trains before they are about to collide into another train or when approaching a train too quickly. In a way, this technology is similar to crash avoidance technology built into many new cars and truck. In 2008, Congress mandated that Positive Train Control systems be implemented in trains after a fatal crash killed 28 people in California. However, due to delays in deadlines and the NTSB’s inability to mandate this use of this technology, Positive Train Control is still not being used.

Implementing Safety Systems

Safety systems and technology have the ability to change transportation for the better. According to the NTSB chairman, Robert Sumwalt, automation, training, and checklists, can prevent all wrecks caused by human errors. When companies are held accountable for their lack of safety systems and implementations, systems change. When safety systems are changed, it prevents tragedies from repeating themselves in the future.