Illinois Rail Safety Week runs from Sept. 13-19. During the week, safety agencies, railroads, law enforcement agencies and private corporations will coordinate to emphasize the importance of rail safety. Illinois is among the nation's leaders in rail injuries and fatalities. In 2013, Illinois saw the third most grade grossing deaths and the second most trespasser fatalities. In 2014, Illinois saw the second most vehicle collision fatalities and maintained its position in third for trespasser fatalities. The hope is that by emphasizing rail safety awareness and education, the number of deaths and injuries can be reduced.
In 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board included Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation on its Most Wanted List of safety initiatives. The NTSB had been calling for the devices for 45 years at that point. Congress had taken action on that suggestion already in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 by requiring all railroads to install the systems by December 31, 2015. With a handful of months remaining before the deadline, it appears unlikely that PTC devices will be in place on time for many railroads, including Metra.
The investigation into last year's Chicago Transit Authority train crash at the O'Hare subway station concluded this week. The National Transportation Safety Board listed several factors as contributing to the March 2014 accident that injured 33 people. The failure of the rail operator to report to work properly rested and the failure of the CTA to manage her schedule were listed as the probable cause of the accident, according to the NTSB report.
In 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all trains be equipped with video cameras to monitor track conditions, signal conditions, and train engineer actions in the event of an accident. The recommendations were made following a Metrolink train wreck in Los Angeles that claimed the lives of 25 people. The Metro-North Railroad derailment in the Bronx earlier this month has renewed interest in the safety measures. That accident led to four fatalities and 71 injuries when the engineer allowed the train to enter a 30-mph curve and more than 80 mph. Video cameras would give an insight into what occurred in the train's control cab leading up to the derailment.
The transportation industry has long been plagued by a condition known as highway hypnosis or white-line fever. Some are claiming the condition was responsible for the commuter train crash on the Metro-North Railroad in New York earlier this month. The condition involves a driver, or in this case a train engineer, who is lulled into a semi-trance state by the monotonous nature of the journey. Anyone who has driven long distances can recognize the hypnotic quality of mile after mile of basically unchanging scenery. The condition often leaves the vehicle operator with little to no memory of portions, sometimes large portions, of the journey.
On Monday, a Metra train collided with a semi truck in Bartlett. The truck driver involved in the crash is now being charged by Metra police for two violations. The 41-year-old man is being cited for violating a highway-rail grade crossing and avoiding a traffic control device, according to a spokesperson for Metra. The crash caused substantial damage to the semi-trailer and the automobiles it was hauling. Fortunately, there were no fatalities associated with the wreck. The truck driver, who works for a Pennsylvania trucking company, has been issued a November 18 court date in Cook County Circuit Court.
A train derailment occurred at a bridge on the Glenview-Northbrook border last Wednesday. The fatal railroad accident has drawn attention to the safety standards and oversight of thousands of bridges in Illinois and across the nation. While the Illinois Department of Transportation is responsible for the condition of most bridges, oversight of railroad bridges is left to the railroad companies, themselves.