New information strongly suggests the NJ Transit train crash in Hoboken two weeks ago was preventable. It is not yet known what caused this crash, but some safety officials and lawmakers are suggesting a positive train control (PTC) system could have prevented the accident.
PTC systems prevent the common causes of train crashes. For example, PTC systems can prevent trains from speeding. This technology can override conductors and apply the brakes in the event of an emergency. PTC systems also use GPS and other technology to pinpoint where other trains are, making collisions much less likely.
These systems may have prevented other crashes like the one in Hoboken. Last spring, an Amtrak train crashed in Philadelphia. It was later discovered the train had been speeding at over 100 miles per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone. If it had been equipped with a PTC system, it would have alerted the conductor the train was speeding and the crash may have been prevented.
Why Are Trains Not Using PTC Systems to Prevent Crashes?
Investigators may also find that the NJ Transit train crash could have been prevented by this technology. The lack of a PTC system is an important detail of the crash that investigators are unlikely to ignore. In 2015, Congress made PTC systems mandatory, but gave transportation companies until 2018 to comply with the new law. That is why NJ Transit trains do not yet use PTC systems.
Two weeks ago, more than 115 people were injured and a woman lost her life. Witnesses describe the train ramming full-speed into the terminal. If this crash is found to have been preventable, victims and their families deserve the chance to hold NJ Transit accountable.