Metrolink is switching to a commuter rail system in Southern California that features rail cars designed to crumple around the passenger compartment to help absorb some of the impact during a train crash. These new trains include bumpers on the ends of the rail cars that collapse to reduce the brunt of any impact from an accident. Steel inside the bumpers constricts like an accordion, and bolts inside the rail car sheer away to also lessen the risk to passengers, according to Press Enterprise.

Tragic accidents and questions of safety prompted Metrolink to focus on improving rail safety and switching to this new system. Back in September of 2008, a Metrolink train in Chatsworth, California (CA) slammed head-on into a Union Pacific freight train. As a result, 25 people were killed and 135 people were injured. Questions were raised about the safety of Metrolink and the company responded by spending three years on designing this new rail system.

Here’s a news report discussing the new safety technology…

Could this type of safety technology make its way to Virginia (VA)? Maybe. There has been plenty of discussion about new rail systems being built in VA. For example, there are plans to extend the D.C. Metro line to portions of Northern Virginia and building a light rail system in the Hampton Roads region.

An emphasis on building safe rail systems should be priority No.1 for contractors and railroad administrators in VA. The D.C. Metro rail system is a prime example of what can happen when safety appears to be neglected. Back in June of 2009, a major Metro train wreck took the lives of nine people and injured 76 people. A string of other train accidents have also occurred on the D.C. Metro rail line throughout the year spurring concerns over passenger safety.

Maybe, just as with Metrolink, the concern over safety will encourage Metro officials in D.C. and VA to re-emphasize safety and reform their system by switching to the new, safer rail cars.