Washington Metro Commuter Train Accident Raises Questions of Passenger Safety

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is a tri-jurisdictional government agency that operates train and bus transit services. The Metro, as it is called, is funded by the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland.

Nine people were killed and many more passengers were injured when two Washington Metro subway trains collided on June 21, 2009, Monday afternoon in Washington, D.C.  One commuter, known as Metro train 112, crashed into the back of another stationary commuter on the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Red line between the Takoma and Fort Totten Metrorail stations. The National Transportation Safety board (NHTSA) is investigating but won’t likely have a report on what caused the collision for many months. Here is what we do know.

Metro train 112 was the oldest in the fleet and was delivered to Metro sometime between 1975 to 1978.  The subject train was being operated by an employee with 3 or so months of experience.  However, Metro 112 was typically controlled by a computer as opposed to the operator, unless the train was in a manual mode. It is being reported that Metro 112 was in “automatic mode” at the time of collision meaning that the computer was operating the train, not the train operator on board.  It is also being reported that the emergency brake on train 112 had been depressed, which could mean that the train operator tried to manually stop the train to avoid collision.  The lever could have, however, been forced forward by body contact or other contact. The NTSB has also confirmed that Metro 112 was two months overdue for scheduled brake maintenance.

The other piece of information our attorneys are focusing on is that federal officials had recommended that train 112 should have been replaced because of concerns about its age. Safety watchdogs warned Washington’s metro operators three years ago about weaknesses in aging subway cars like train 112 on issues of crashworthiness. The NTSB has also said that it told Washington Metro in 2006 that the carriage in its 1000-series trains, like train 112,  was likely to unreasonably crumple in an collision jeopardizing the safety of passengers and crew.

Clearly, the investigation is presently focused on the onboard computers that control the trains speed and braking, the Metro track signal system which was specifically designed to prevent collisions such as this one, and on the age of train 112, one of roughly 300 1000-series. We won’t know for months what the cause, or multiple causes, of this deadly commuter train accident were.  However, it is already clear that this accident could have been avoided.  The safety systems and procedures are designed to preclude and accident like this from ever occurring.  Something clearly went wrong. Recall it was only 8 months ago that another commuter train in Los Angles California claimed the lives of 20 passengers.  The operator in that instance was operating a cell phone at the time of the collision.

Katherine E. Ackerman

Next Post

Auto Credit Loans - Helping People With Bad Credit

Tue Mar 26 , 2024
Worried that your low credit score will sabotage all your chances of getting behind the wheels of your dream car? Well, here’s good news for you. Rising bad credit situations have naturally triggered a growing number of companies offering auto credit loans to people with iffy credit scores. These companies […]

You May Like