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A California train disaster that occurred less than four years ago on Sept. 12, 2008 causing 25 deaths and 135 injuries in Chatsworth, CA, was the catalyst for the passage of The Rail Safety Improvement Act in 2008.

Photo shows rescue workers in front of the Metrolink locomotive lying on its side after penetrating the lead passenger car (left) in the Chatsworth, CA railroad accident in 2008.

The Chatsworth train collision occurred at 4:22 p.m. PDT on Friday September 12, 2008, when a Union Pacific freight train and a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on in the Chatsworth district of Los Angeles, California. The scene of the accident was a curved section of single track on the Metrolink Ventura County Line just east of Stoney Point.

Photo shows the Metrolink locomotive (left) and and the two Union Pacific locomotives (right) in the Chatsworth, California railroad accident of 2008.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigated the cause of the collision, the Metrolink train ran through a red signal before entering a section of single track where the opposing freight train had been given the right of way by the train dispatcher. The NTSB faulted the Metrolink train’s engineer for the collision, concluding that he was distracted by text messages he was sending while on duty

The Rail Safety Improvement Act, which passed into law after the 2008 disaster, calls for installation of a technology known as Positive Train Control, or PTC, that automatically puts the brakes on trains about to collide or derail.

The law requires railroads to install PTC by the end of 2015 on an estimated 70,000 miles of track used by trains carrying passengers or extremely hazardous materials such as chlorine. The $13 billion project requires the railroad companies to pay for most of the cost.

The railroad companies have won over key Republicans, and extracted a major concession from the Obama administration in their quest to scale back and delay a system.

MSNBC reports:

The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent advisory and investigative agency, have championed  PTC for over two decades to prevent accidents resulting from human error, the main cause of rail crashes.

Investigators with the agency have identified 21 train wrecks since late 2001 that, they say, would have been averted by PTC. In all, the accidents caused 53 deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries.

“PTC can prevent these human errors from causing collisions, hazmat releases, passengers killed and injured, and train crews being killed,” said Steven Ditmeyer, a former rail industry executive and federal official who now teaches in Michigan State University’s railway management program.

Serious train crashes, he said, “are very rare events, but they still occur.”

MSNBC: Read Full Story.

FELA Lawyer News Blog is a FELA, train accident and personal injury blog that publishes up to date train accidents and FELA legal news from across the United States. The Federal Employers ‘Liability Act, (FELA) allows injured railroad workers to recover compensation based on the negligence of the railroad company, in lieu of workers’ compensation. FELA defines negligence as the railroad company’s failure to use reasonable care.

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