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Mass transit plays an important role in the lives of many individuals. While in Columbus, Ohio, a bus system is offered, in other cities located throughout the nation commuter trains are used. Though in most cases mass transit vehicles get people where they want to go without incident, at times accidents do occur. The last month of 2013 got off to a sad start for four families who live on the east coast. A train derailment there claimed the lives of their loved ones.

The train, which was operating in the Bronx, jumped the tracks as it took a curve. In addition to the locomotive leaving the tracks, all of the coaches it was pulling also derailed. Though the train should have been traveling at 30-mph when it hit the curve, at the time of the incident, it was travelling at 82 mph. In addition to the four deaths, at least 67 other individuals were injured in the crash.

Following the fatal accident several potential contributing factors were ruled out. In addition to signal and brake systems being found to work as intended, no alcohol was found in the train engineer’s system. While the engineer has been cleared of being intoxicated at the time of the crash, the investigation is still focusing on his actions. It is believed that he succumbed to what in car accident situations is commonly referred to as “highway hypnosis.” This state may have kept the man from taking actions to slow the train for the curve.

As a result of this incident the Federal Railroad Administration is requiring that the railroad make the necessary changes to its signal system to make sure trains comply with the prescribed speed limits. During that same time in areas where the speed of trains is severely restricted, two qualified railroad employees must be on board to operate each train.

The steps taken to improve the safety of those passengers riding trains in these areas is likely welcomed. It does nothing however to help those who were either hurt in the derailment or the loved ones of those who died. Individuals whose lives were forever changed as a result of the train crash could find that filing a civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the railway helps to address some of the issues they face as they recover.

Source: CNN, “Agency issues emergency safety order after New York train derailment,” Ray Sanchez and Elizabeth Landers, Dec. 6, 2013