Technology could prevent tragedies
It became clear almost immediately after an Amtrak train crashed in Washington recently that excessive speed was to blame. The train was traveling at 80 mph on tracks rated for 30 mph when it derailed, killing three people and injuring many others.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators continue looking into what went wrong.
Stop and think: How many serious train crashes during the past few years have been blamed on excessive speed or other human error? Several fall into that category.
NTSB officials should be studying what can be done to prevent human error from causing train crashes. Surely there is some way of making up for the failures of mistake-prone human beings.
There is a way to, at least, lessen the danger. It involves use of computerized systems linked to geo-positioning equipment. If a train is going too fast for a given location, the systems can apply brakes and ease off the throttle automatically. Railroads have been slow to adopt the expensive technology, however.
The system was being tested on the section of track where the Washington accident occurred.
It is far from fail-safe, but it is something. Railroads are mandated to install such systems by the end of this year. Clearly, they need to accelerate the process.