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Could Positive Train Control Have Prevented the Washington Train Derailment?

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In late December, Amtrak Cascades 501 derailed on its maiden journey from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon. The accident killed at least three people and injured more than 100 others on a new route between the two cities. The train was moving at 80mph when it entered an overpass on a curve with a speed limit of 30mph. The train then jumped the tracks, with several of the passenger vehicles exiting the overpass and some falling into rush hour traffic on the road below.

Could this accident have been prevented with positive train control (PTC)?


PTC is a system that can automatically slow down or stop a train if it senses that the locomotive is moving too fast or could cause an accident. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, PTC is the single most important rail safety development in over a century. It uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train movements. It was designed to prevent the nearly 40 percent of accidents that are caused by human error. The federal government has mandated that all trains be equipped with PTC by the end of 2018. Could PTC have saved Amtrak Cascades 501?

PTC was actually installed on the segment of track where the train derailed, but was not yet operational. The technology also must be installed in trains to tie the train and track systems together.

The PTC system on the segment of track where the train derailed is meant to be up and running by the second quarter of 2018. To date, Amtrak has installed PTC on almost half of its trains and 67 percent of its tracks.

If you are injured in a train accident, our personal injury law firm can help.

Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”