Toll of railroads’ speed control lag

298 dead

The engine from an Amtrak train that crashed  onto Interstate 5  on Monday, is transported away from the scene, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in DuPont, Wash.  Federal investigators in the deadly train wreck want to know whether the engineer was distracted by a second person in his cab as his train hurtled into a curve at more than twice the speed limit.  The train took a 30 mph curve at 80 mph and plunged off an overpass, sending rail cars plummeting onto a busy highway south of Seattle.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The engine from an Amtrak train that crashed onto Interstate 5 on Monday, is transported away from the scene, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in DuPont, Wash. Federal investigators in the deadly train wreck want to know whether the engineer was distracted by a second person in his cab as his train hurtled into a curve at more than twice the speed limit. The train took a 30 mph curve at 80 mph and plunged off an overpass, sending rail cars plummeting onto a busy highway south of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Nearly 300 people have died in train crashes that could have been prevented if railroads across the U.S. implemented critical speed-control technology that federal safety investigators have been pushing for close to five decades, according to rail crash data obtained by The Associated Press.

But despite overwhelming evidence it could save lives, Congress extended the deadlines for railroads to implement positive train control for years.

All the while, new high-speed train routes continue to spring into operation without the technology, including the new route involved in Monday’s Amtrak crash south of Seattle that killed three people and one in Florida that’s expected to start service in the coming weeks.

Data the NTSB provided to AP on Wednesday shows the crashes the NTSB says could’ve been prevented by positive train control have caused 298 deaths, 6,763 injuries and nearly $385 million in property damage. The records list crashes though May 2015 — when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people — and do not include Monday’s wreck outside of Seattle, which experts say likely could have been prevented by the technology.

The board first recommending using “automatic train control” after two Penn Central commuter trains collided in Darien, Connecticut on Aug, 20, 1969, killing four and injuring 43.

The GPS-based technology is designed to automatically slow or stop trains that are going too fast and can take over control of a train when an engineer is distracted or incapacitated.