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Train control system benefits riders, but is it too expensive?

Many California residents remember the tragic train accident in 2008 in which 25 people on the train were killed. It was one of two horrific train accidents in this state that ended with fatalities in that one year alone. After the accidents, new efforts to improve rail safety were launched and prioritized in order to prevent future crashes. One solution came in the form of a deadline: All trains would be equipped with life-saving positive train control systems by the end of 2015.

But a recent report indicates that many railroads will not meet that deadline. This can be very upsetting, considering the fact that the system is expected to prevent catastrophic crashes like the one that recently happened in New York. Four people were killed when the train derailed after entering a curve in the tracks at a speed of 82 mph.

The positive train control system is technology designed to use satellite positioning to adjust train controls in the event that a locomotive is speeding or about to crash into another train. Based on the motions of a train, the controls could be adjusted and crews can be alerted if the system detects that the train is about to crash.

As effective as this may be in preventing accidents similar to the ones in New York and California, railroads may not be able to have them installed in time to meet the deadline set by Congress and have asked for an extension. Railroad officials say that the system is too expensive and paying for the positive train control would come at the expense of other critical repairs that trains already need.

But knowing that there are safety measures available that can prevent devastating train derailments from injuring or killing passengers that are not implemented can be very frustrating for accident victims and their families. Too many people are hurt in accidents caused by failed or inadequate safety measures or because of human error or negligence. Limiting these instances is crucial in order to protect people from catastrophic crashes and serious or fatal injuries. 

Source: NBC News, "New York crash could add pressure on railroads to adopt new safety technology," Tom Curry and Erin McClam, Dec. 3, 2013

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