Articles Posted in Train Accidents

The US Department of Transportation and the National Safety Council have created FocusDriven. This is the first national advocacy group focused on supporting distracted driving victims and raising awareness about the dangers this very bad driving habit presents to motorists and pedestrians. The group was developed as a result last year’s Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC. On its Web site, FocusDriven states that its vision is to save lives and prevent injuries by eliminating the use of cell phones while driving.

For awhile, motorists and lawmakers thought that using a cell phone wasn’t too dangerous as long a driver kept both hands on the wheel and used an earpiece or Bluetooth device. While there are accident statistics that indicate a higher crash risk when a driver uses a handheld cellular phone, rather than a hands-free device, the mounting data which proves that talking on any type of cellular device while operating a motor vehicle is just plain dangerous can no longer be ignored. Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), FocusDriven wants everyone to fully comprehend that there is no doubt whatsoever that talking on a phone while driving can injure and kill people.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the NSC chose to announce creation of the advocacy group on Tuesday, exactly one year after the NSC called for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. The US government also recently launched a federal Web site called Distraction.gov, which focuses on raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. LaHood says the Obama Administration is committed to “putting an end” to distracted driving.

Washington DC Car Accidents

In a busy city like Washington DC, it is not uncommon for motorists and pedestrians to multi-task while trying to manage busy careers, social calendars, and personal lives. Many people are wedded to their cell phones and PDAs, so it is not uncommon to make calls and send messages while commuting to and from work. Unfortunately, multi-tasking while operating a motor vehicle is a bad idea and can be considered negligent driving if someone is killed or hurt in a Washington DC motor vehicle collision as a result.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the National Safety Council Announce FocusDriven, January 12, 2010, (PDF)

Related Web Resources:

FocusDriven

Distraction.gov

National Safety Council

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According to the 2009 Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation, about 1.9 Million Drivers are involved in drowsy driving car crashes or near miss accidents each year. Unfortunately, many people underestimate the power sleepiness can have in causing Washington DC car accidents.

Per the poll, 105 million US drivers have driven while sleepy in the last year. 54 million drivers drive while drowsy at least once a month.

National Sleep Foundation chairman Thomas Balkin says that while motorists are good at recognizing when they are tired, this doesn’t stop them from getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and driving. Balkin says that people mistakenly think that they can will themselves to stay awake but they often don’t even realize that they are falling asleep. Balkin notes that just one moment of “reduced awareness” can cause a motor vehicle crash.

Drowsy driving slows reflexes, reduces alertness, and impairs one’s ability to think clearly and rapidly respond to an emergency situation. A person who is sleepy or very tired while driving might inadvertently lane change, let go of the steering wheel, fail to notice traffic signs, not see other vehicles or pedestrians, drive off the road, or drive into oncoming traffic.

Drowsy driving can be grounds for a Washington DC injury claim or wrongful death lawsuit if another person is injured as a result.

In an attempt to decrease the number of drowsy driving accidents, the National Sleep Foundation has declared November 2 – 8 Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

Ways to Avoid Drowsy Driving:

• Get a good night’s driving.
• Take periodic brakes (every 2 hours or every 100 miles).
• Don’t drink alcohol or take medications that cause drowsiness before driving.
• If necessary, stop and take a nap.

• Take caffeine if necessary.

.9 Million Drivers Have Fatigue-Related Car Crashes or Near Misses Each Year, Reuters, October 29, 2009
Drowsy Driving: Reduce Your Risk of Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel, Associated Content, June 27, 2006
Related Web Resources:

National Sleep Foundation

NHTSA

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At the opening of the Distracted Driving Summit, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that texting while driving has become an “an endemic” and a “menace to society.” Over 300 people are taking part in the conference, including law enforcement officials, lawmakers, and safety experts.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,780 people died (16% of all deadly traffic collisions) and 515,000 people sustained injuries in distracted driving accidents last year. Many of these auto crashes are a result of people using cell phones and PDAs.

Distracted driving is reportedly a big problem among young drivers, especially those under age 21. Distracted driving was a factor in 16% of deadly crashes involving drivers in this age group.

The family of Cameron Williams, one of the nine people killed in the June 22 Red Line train accident that is being called the worst wreck in the Metro’s history, has filed a Washington DC wrongful death lawsuit for $25 million. Their DC train crash complaint is accusing Metro of negligence and of failing to take the reasonable precautions to prevent the crash from happening.

Williams’s family is also suing Alstom Signaling Company, which is responsible for the circuit that failed to slow or stop the train so that the deadly collision wouldn’t happen. Depending on the National Transportation Safety Board’s findings once it concludes its crash probe, other defendants may be added to the DC train accident lawsuit.

The deadly collision occurred during rush hour close to the Fort Totten stop when one train crashed on top of another train. At least seventy people were transported to local hospitals.

Investigators are working hard to determine the cause of Monday’s deadly DC Metro train accident that officials are calling the worst in Metrolink’s history. The death toll has risen to 9 fatalities—although Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty says emergency officials don’t believe any more bodies will be found in the wreckage from the Red Line collision. More than 70 people were sent to hospitals for their injuries following the rush hour train crash.

According to officials, Train 112, the train that hit another train close to the Fort Totten Station, contained six of the oldest rail cars in the fleet. The train cars belonged to the Series 1000 models from the 1970’s. Several years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration replace these cars because their ability to withstand a train crash was uncertain. The transit agency, however, refused to retire the trains or strengthen their frames (which could have decreased the risk that they would collapse during a collision) because of cost concerns. Also, the trains were going to be retired in 2014.

The 290 1000 series cars comprise over 25% of Metro’s 1,126-car fleet. During Monday’s train crash, part of train 112’s lead car ended up on the roof of Train 214’s trailing car. The impact of the crash crushed 2/3rds of Train 112’s lead car.

Train 112 was operating automatically at the time of Monday’s train collision and evidence indicates that train operator Jeanice McMillan, who was among the fatalities, activated the emergency break before the train accident happened. McMillan, 42, had only three months’ experience as a train operator prior to Monday’s devastating wreck. National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman says that investigators are examining whether McMillan was tired, having health issues, or was talking on a cell phone or text messaging when the DC train accident happened.

Based on the current information and evidence that is available, experts say that the train crash may have occurred because of operator error, a faltering computer system, brake failure, or a combination of these factors. The Washington Post is reporting that Train 112 may have been two months past due for brake maintenance.

Unfortunately, because train 112 is an older train, it does not have a “black box.” The train that was struck is a newer train that was carrying a data recording device. Hersman says that the NTSB is examining a number of other issues, including system maintenance, personnel training, and the train tracks’ condition. Search, recovery, and investigation efforts are seriously affecting travel from the Maryland suburbs to downtown Washington DC.

Toll rises to 9 in D.C. rail crash, The Baltimore Sun, June 24, 2009
Train Operator Apparently Hit Brakes Before Crash, Washington Post, June 24, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

National Transportation Safety Board

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