Metrolink Report Blames Texting Engineer

Posted on March 23, 2010

The investigation has concluded into the deadly September 12, 2008 collision of a commuter train with a freight train in Chatsworth, California that killed 25 and injured 135. As previously thought, the engineer was texting a message to young engineer fans from his phone as he passed a stop signal.

The engineer was killed in the head-on crash of two trains traveling at 40 mph. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that all of the mechanical systems appeared to be working properly.

The 16-month investigation also concluded that the collision could have been avoided had an automated system that stops trains when humans fail, been installed.

Lawsuits filed against Metrolink, Veolia Transportation, Inc. and Connex Railroad LLC hope to show that authorities were aware that the engineer had engaged in this behavior previously, but was never disciplined or fired him.

The crash and subsequent investigation has renewed calls for an automated technology that can stop trains in the event of human error. Metrolink has plans to install a $201 million positive train control system by 2012. The NTSB recommends that all commuter trains install cameras and audio recorders to monitor train operators. And the 15-hour work day that is occasionally required of engineers and conductors, has raised concerns with NTSB board members.

In October, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law legislation that bans texting while driving. Florida texting ban legislation to be introduced this year may mean that our state joins California, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington State, which have all banned text messaging while driving motor vehicles.


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