Security Camera Installations on Train Cabs Can Aid in Wreck Investigations
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested security camera installations onto train cabs over 5 years ago to have a better understanding of what happens in wrecks. The topic has been brought up again after the recent train wreck that occurred in Philadelphia this May. After the train derailed, there were eight people left dead with over 200 injured passengers, and the rail of cars were a complete mangled mess.
With the discovery of the black box, investigators were able to piece together that the train accelerated up to 106 miles per hour through a curve where the speed limit was 50, and then went into maximum braking power just seconds before the derailment. The biggest question is why the train accelerated and whether or not the act was one of the engineer, if it was considered an accident, or if there was another reason.
The NTSB has been proposing an inward facing security camera installations with both sound and video to capture the engineer in action. The hope is that it can piece together the gap of evidence that investigators require to make a conclusive case. Without the sound and video, all that investigators have is the black box which can only detect what the train does, not the engineer.
The main reason for closing the missing evidence is to know where to place blame, which can aid in advisement for improvements in the future. With the many train accidents that have occurred over the years, having a reason why can bring closure to many of those involved. It brings a new level of responsibility for the engineers if they know they are being watched by security cameras.
Why hasn’t the NTSB’s proposal gone through yet? Both the Railroad Administration and Labor unions have been putting a hold on security camera installations on the trains. Their reasoning revolves around the well-being of the operators. Those organizations believe strongly that having a constant monitoring on the operators will lower the employee morale, and will reduce their performance of complex tasks due to the distracting efforts. Dennis Pierce, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, states that the “installation of cameras will provide the public nothing more than a false sense of security.” This statement was taken after the December 2013 crash in the Bronx, NY where an engineer had fallen asleep while operating a commuter train.
The NTSB had been diligent with their requests for audio recordings in the cabs since the late 1990’s and 5 years ago was when they made their first request to also implement security camera installations to capture video along with the audio. This request was made after trying to close up a case of one of the worst train wrecks on file. The train collision occurred in 2008 near Chatsworth, California when a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a Union pacific freight train after it had failed to obey signals. The investigation uncovered evidence pointing to a distracted engineer who had missed the signals because they were allegedly sending text messages. Twenty-five were killed (including the engineer) and 100 were injured in the collision.
The NTSB is relentless in their hopes to have security camera installations on the cabs to further improve the safety regulations. The Federal Railroad Administration is delayed in their response to the action, and is postponing all efforts for future improvement opportunities.
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