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Federal Investigation Reveals Metro-North Safety Lapses

The National Transportation Safety Board recently released a report on the Dec. 1 train derailment in the Bronx that killed four people and injured 77. The NTSB, which is charged by Congress to investigate plane, bus, truck and rail accidents, found that the driver of the train suffered from sleep apnea and that there was sedating allergy medication in his bloodstream at the time of the accident. However, the NTSB did not release its official probable cause of the accident, saying that it would include this information in its final report.

Unfortunately, the rail accident in the Bronx is not as unique an occurrence as could be hoped. Nationally, every other day a passenger or commuter train is involved in an accident, according to a USA TODAY survey of federal data. The Federal Railroad Administration reported that 2,259 rail accidents have occurred in the past 11 years, with fifty dead and over 2,500 injured. These statistics mean that “passengers should be concerned about their safety,” Jim Hall, a former NTSB chairman,
told USA TODAY. The FRA’s review of Metro-North’s safety procedures, which followed the crash, noted that the rail’s strong emphasis on timeliness led safety inspections and employee training to slip.

Metro-North had numerous defects

Metro-North often received notices of defects from federal inspectors. At the request of Hearst Media, authorities released information from 2003 to 2013 that revealed Metro-North had 7,100 reported defects and deficiencies in the ten-year period studied. Problems included deteriorating tracks, passenger safety, train control, drug policies and operating procedures, according to federal authorities. Federal officials also noted that the company’s record keeping was "inadequate," and that rail employees may have violated hours-of-service requirements, which are in place to limit drivers and engineers from working while fatigued.

In light of recent accidents, focus on safety

In New Jersey, the state’s mass transit authority, NJ Transit, recently spent millions of dollars to investigate its mass transit safety, including rail and bus safety. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently proposed $5 billion in upgrades to New York’s mass transit system. Among suggested improvements, Gov. Cuomo is seeking measures to help prevent flooding in the transit system similar what happened during Superstorm Sandy.

While rail infrastructure is in need of improvement across the country, often accidents are the result of human error.

Rail accidents cause chaos for victims and their families

A rail accident is a severe and devastating event, often resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. Injured victims and their families do have legal options after a crash. If a rail company is negligent in its safety procedures, it is liable for any costs associated with injuries and
wrongful deaths involved. People who have been in a rail accident or who have had a family member killed in a rail accident should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss their potential legal case.