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After California’s worst accident in metrolink history, the trains are back open and rolling. The crash has left many living here in Southern California wondering just how safe our commuter trains are. Even though the actual cause of the accident is under investigation, it could take up to one year until the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB has concluded its inquiry. But as scattered facts are coming to light, shock has changed to anger when we slowly piece together the puzzle on what actually happened on the train that killed 25 commuters and injured over 135 other passengers.

So far the investigators have ruled out mechanical, track and train problems. The main focus is on the engineer, Robert Sanchez. According to the data that was recovered from the data recorder, no brake pressure had been applied and he was speeding. In addition, Metrolink officials confirmed that all signal lights were operating correctly and that he ran two red lights that warned of the approaching freight train. Other factors that could have influenced human error are that he typically worked a split shift (6am-9pm with a 3 ½ hour break), and was possibly texting at the time of the crash.

California senator Dianne Feinstein quickly introduced legislation this week that would require all trains to install new technology called “positive train control”. This new monitoring system would track all trains’ locations and stop them via an override system, if the engineer does not physically stop. This would prevent deadly train crashes and save hundreds of passengers from personal injury from wrecks.

The head of Metrolink last year addressed congress and complained that these new technologies would involve substantial costs and urged them to allow flexibility in implementing the new systems. They had just spent 177 million on newer, safe passenger cars. In every crash, the first car is normally more damaged than the others, and of course this is where most of the fatalities results. Unfortunately these new cars are not to be delivered until December 2008. The cars will hopefully prevent derailments and passengers from being crushed. Of course every industry does have to weigh the risks to upgrading old technology but in this case, the costs are enormous-literally.

Lawsuits already have begun being filed in California courts. The cap of $200 million, imposed by congress 11 years ago for liability on any one railway accident, will be tested because of the sheer volume of severe personal injuries and fatalities. Attorneys argue that more litigation actually provides more information for the community at large and this can bring about regulatory changes.

If you were injured in this recent train accident or any accident where you experienced any personal injury, you probably have a lot of questions. Contact a professional firm such as Allen, Flatt, Ballidis and Leslie for answers to your questions as well as assistance through this ordeal.

Metrolink passengers took over 10.5 million trips last year in Southern California. It still is safer than driving the freeways for commuters. With the recent high prices of gas and severe traffic congestion in Orange County, ridership was up 8% and there is more expansion planned for stops in Fullerton, Orange, Tustin, Irvine and Laguna Niguel.

Stay safe and enjoy each day.