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NTSB recommends train crewmember recordings

After the May 12 derailment of New York-bound Train 188 outside of Philadelphia, Amtrak announced that the planned installation of inward-facing video recorders in some of its trains’ operating cabs. However, the National Transportation Safety Board asked Amtrak to install these devices in all of its trains in a July 8 letter because audio recordings can provide critical information on crew actions before mass transit accidents and help prevent events such as the Philadelphia train derailment.

In its letter to Amtrak, the NTSB also requested that Amtrak ensure that all of the cameras are crash- and fire-protected and that the video is periodically reviewed to ensure that crewmembers are safely operating the trains. It recommended that Amtrak report twice a year on its progress with the installation of these devices.

Citing 12 rail accidents, the NTSB made a similar request to the Federal Railroad Administration. In these accidents, the NTSB had recommended the use of audio or image recorders in the operating cabs after finding that this information would have significantly aided in its investigations.

The NTSB first recommended audio recorders in operating cabs to the FRA after a 1996 train collision in Silver Spring, Maryland. It sought crash-and fire-protected inward-and outward-facing audio and image recorders capable of 12 hours of recording after a 2008 train collision in Chatsworth, California.

This technology provided significant information in two NTSB investigations. A video/audio recorder provided information on the sequence of an accident involving a Bay Area Rapid Area Transit train that collided with roadway workers in Walnut Creek, California. Information from a recorder also corroborated an engineer’s description of events surrounding the collision of a commuter train with a truck in Oxnard, California.

As the government seeks measures to combat transit accidents, commuters and rail passengers in New York still face the peril of a possible accident. Victims of these crashes and their families should quickly seek legal assistance to help assure that their rights are protected in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Legal representation can also help assure that evidence from these investigations may be utilized.