Speeding Passenger Train Derails
An Amtrak train was making its first trip between Seattle and Portland with a new and improved faster route when it lept from the tracks Monday morning. This trip was to have shaved 10 minutes off the trip, with a new route that would bypass many twists and turns along the Puget Sound, using recently acquired resurfaced track. But the journey was cut short when thirteen train cars hurled from the tracks, killing three people on board and hitting several unsuspecting motorists going southbound on I-5 below. Only the rear locomotive remained on the tracks.
From the national news over the last couple of days, many of us have learned that trains have speed limits, just like motor vehicles on our highways and roads. Train 501 was speeding when it careened from the tracks over a busy stretch of Interstate 5, between Olympia and Tacoma. It was carrying 80 passengers, three crew members, and two engineering service members aboard.
Chris Karnes, a passenger on the train and also the chairman of the Pierce Transit Community Transportation Advisory Group, said the train was moving at a “pretty good pace”–roughly 70 to 80 mph, judging by how the train had been passing cars on the highway–before it derailed.
Another passenger, Scott Claggett, said that the commotion didn’t start until they hit the curve, near the Eagle Pride Golf Course, in DuPont. “We started to tilt and you’re just like, we’re going way too fast to be tilting like this. The car tilted, everything started flying toward me. People started flying toward me. There was glass, smoke.” The train had been going more than 80 mph when it hit a curve that was designed to be taken at 30 mph. That caused the train to buckle and leap from the track.
At a Monday night briefing, the Washington State Patrol said 19 uninjured passengers were transported to the city of DuPont to be reunited with their families and 72 other people were transported to various hospitals for evaluation and treatment. State Patrol Sgt. Dan Hall with the Washington State Patrol said that of those 72 people, 10 were in serious condition, four had moderate injuries and nine had minor injuries.
Surprising Safety Stats for Train Accidents
Train accidents like what happened in Washington are tragic and justifiably get a lot of public and media attention because, like airplane crashes, they are very rare. For as often as they cover millions and millions of miles traveled each year-collisions of this magnitude are isolated events due to human error and negligence. According to economists and safety experts, trains are the second-safest mode of transportation in the US, with only flying being a safer option.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s statistics, of the 891 train deaths in the U.S. in 2013, only six of them were passengers. The vast majority of casualties resulting from a “train accident” were pedestrians or drivers who were struck by a train. The National Safety Council data also indicates that train passenger deaths are extremely rare. So it’s no wonder that this accident is garnering so much attention- but for as unfortunate as it is, this type of accident is a rarity rather than a common event in safe commuter travels. http://www.newsweek.com/train-crashes-numbers-304486
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