Second LIRR Train Crash in Less Than 3 Months – Major Cause for Worry

Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) crash raises questions about safety features – more so when it’s the second in three months – who is to be held responsible?

Second LIRR Train Crash in Less Than 3 Months – Major Cause for Worry

On the 4th day of the New Year, a Brooklyn-bound LIRR passenger train crashed into the buffer stops at the Atlantic Terminal in New York City injuring 104 passengers – fortunately, no fatalities have been reported yet.

31 injured passengers were serious enough to be taken to the Brooklyn Hospital Center, Kings County Hospital Center or New York Methodist Hospital; again, fortunately enough, the injuries were reported to be non-life-threatening.

“Ensuring safe operation must be the top priority of the LIRR, and we urge the Rail Road to do all that is possible to further the investigation of this incident and make its results available and apply them to enhance the safety of passengers and crew members,” LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein said in a statement. “The LIRRCC restates its call for the LIRR to investigate and employ operational measures, technologies, and systems to reduce the risks of injury resulting from terminal collisions.”

An LIRR train hit a bumper block and derailed at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2016, injuring 104 people, authorities said. (Credit: Theodore Parisienne)
An LIRR train hit a bumper block and derailed at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2016, injuring 104 people,

While Mr. Epstein’s statement sounds weighty enough, he needs to be reminded that this was the second such accident in less than three months and if we go further back we’ll find a few more examples of similar accidents and stringent safety measures should have been in place then to have avoided the latest mishap.

When an eastbound Huntington train derailed in October last year after it collided with a work train, which happened to be on the same track, injuring 33 people, officials blamed it on a track switch being left in the wrong position – now this cannot be attributed to mechanical failure – it was a clear case of sheer negligence on the part of personnel responsible for keeping such switches in the right position.

About fifteen months prior to the last mishap two trains sideswiped each other close to Jamaica because of a stop signal violation by an engineer.

According to Clark Berkowitz, Moriches railroad safety expert, “one of the things that the Long Island Rail Road does well is it maintains its trains,” and he may be right in his claim as railroad records show that improved maintenance has resulted in lesser number of mechanical failures in the railroad’s 183 year history.

A lot of railroad statistics are available to prove a marked decline in the number of LIRR customer accidents. For example, from November 2013 to October 2014 there were 5.51 injuries for every 1 million customers the LIRR carried which came down to 4.23 injuries per million from November 2014 to October 2015 and declined even further to just 2.87 injuries per million customers between November 2015 to October 2016.

In general, safety is the focus of everything we do,” LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said on Wednesday. “We’re always looking to improve our safety records.”

An injured passenger is taken from the Atlantic Terminal in the Brooklyn borough of New York
An injured passenger is taken from the Atlantic Terminal in the Brooklyn borough of New York

In this age of high-end technology and robotics and monitoring and state of the art safety measures, accidents continue to endanger the lives of passengers. Two accidents in less than three months are one too many.

The questions that demands answers are:

Why do accidents keep happening in spite of so many safety measures being deployed?

How can human error and negligence be minimized?

What is being done about it by the LIRR authorities?

One is likely to be told that the railroad authorities have initiated numerous safety measures and checks to minimize train mishaps such as installation of cameras in engineer cabs, and cameras facing outwards on all trains, testing engineers for sleep disorders, and state-of-the-art installations for train control and a lot of high-tech sounding terminologies that will go over the heads of the common man.

The fact remains that none of these measures have been adopted yet and it would be years before we get to see the completion of these so called initiatives. All we get to see are stats showing that there has been a decline in the number of accidents over the years while plans are underway to build houses on Mars.

Time to wake up folks, or do we need more wake-up calls? This time we got away with injuries – next time we may not be that lucky.

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