DOT Awards $1 Million Grant for Railroad Safety Research

What happened:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) recently granted a two-year award of $1 million to a team of researchers from UMass Lowell, Duke University, the University of Vermont, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Penn State Altoona. The purpose of the research is to develop an automated system for inspecting and monitoring the country’s rail transit system.

Currently, the system of monitoring relies mostly on visual inspection of the tracks, which can only detect problems on the surface and misses safety hazards underground. A 2008 study by the Federal Transit Authority revealed that 25 percent of the nation’s rails are in marginal or poor condition. The research team hopes to develop a system which will use ground-penetrating radar, laser, geographic information system and GPS to automatically check and collect surface and subsurface information to help discover those hazards.


The Virginia Injury Attorney Perspective:

According to a report released by the Illinois Railroad Engineering Program, from 2003 to 2006, broken rails were the cause of 335 mainline derailments for Class I railroads in the United States. The total amount of damages caused by these derailments was over $176 million. In the three year time span of the study, 14 of those accidents involved the release of hazardous materials. From January 2012 to August 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis is reporting 29 people injured in train derailments – eight of them fatally.

 Our editors have highlighted numerous incidents where many rail accidents may have been less severe, and possibly avoidable all together, if more automated safety systems were in place. An investigation of a fatal Iowa train crash in April 2011 concluded that had the locomotive and rail cars been equipped with positive train control systems, (PTC), the train would have slowed down considerably, and may have stopped completely, before impact after both the engineer and conductor crew had fallen asleep. 

 Another example of where only utilizing visual inspection failed to detect a safety hazard occurred in a Chicago subway fire in June, 2010, which sent dozens of people to the hospital, including a 10 year-old boy. The cause of that fire was thought to have been a build-up of creosote on the track mixing with the hot summer heat. 

If you've been injured in a train accident, contact a Virginia personal injury attorney to find out what compensation you may be entitled to for any pain and loss you have suffered as a result of the accident.


Potentially Helpful Info

 If you have been injured in a freight train or passenger rail accident, download this fre report written by personal injury attorneys based in Virginia (VA) who specialize in railroad cases to begin learning about your legal rights and options to file claims for compensation.


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Randall E. Appleton
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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