Home News This Tech Could’ve Prevented the Amtrak Derailment Tragedy

This Tech Could’ve Prevented the Amtrak Derailment Tragedy

written by Nathan Richardson January 12, 2018
Amtrak train derailment from overhead

2017 was a year of sorrow for many people. Wildfires ravaged the west coast, while icy floods and flash freezes decimated the east coast. People have been at each other’s throats on a near-constant basis for political reasons. However, some incidents could have been avoided. Last month, the Amtrak derailment was an eye-opener for many travelers that even their favorite methods of transportation could be unsafe.

What Could’ve Stopped the Amtrak Derailment?

It was discovered that a new safety system that had been installed on the train hadn’t been activated. This system is known as “Positive Train Control” and should ensure the safety of trains, cargo, and especially passengers. This feature alone could have saved the lives of the crash victims and prevented the paralysis of some survivors. This new safety tech was originally set to be installed on every train across the country. Unfortunately, Congress refused to do that to all of the trains at once to avoid a¬†shutdown. Once the delayed deadline had been hit by the end of 2015, they extended it yet again to 2018. This is where the problem began. Due to the regulations not being enforced, the system wasn’t activated, and the train derailed.

Just What Is Positive Train Control?

Positive Train Control Amtrak Derailment Prevention Diagram

In this process, distance is calculated regarding how far away the train is from the set signal. The engineer should brake, especially around corners, to ensure not flying off the tracks. A reminder is given to the engineer once they get close enough to the signal. If the PTC senses their speed is too intense, and the engineer won’t – or can’t – it will manually engage the brakes. The system takes control and slows the train itself.

Unfortunately, not every train had this system installed, or activated, by the end of last year. The Amtrak derailment is the latest incident relating to this problem. Had it been slowed down by the system, the train would’ve been brought to 30 mph rather than 80.

A Survivor’s Struggle

Safety should have been a prime concern instead of the monetary value of trains shutting down to upgrade. At least one survivor has been rendered paralyzed, possibly for life. We can only hope the law on these life-saving systems does not get pushed back another three years.

What do you think? Is this Congress’ fault for pushing back the deadline? Could this system have saved lives? Was it the engineer’s fault or the machinery? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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