Sanity After The Amtrak Disaster
By now you already know that an Amtrak passenger train bound for New York City derailed in Philadelphia on May 13th.
The train was traveling far in excess of the normal speed limit—over 100 mph, in fact—through a turn in the tracks. The engineer engaged the emergency break, but it did little to slow the train.
The engine and all seven cars jumped the tracks, killing seven people and injuring hundreds more.
Questions of whether the engineer was distracted or suicidal, whether America's rail infrastructure is too old to function properly, and accusations that trains themselves are unsafe have all popped up.
Reports have also surfaced that projectiles struck the windows of both the derailed Amtrak train and another passenger engine in the same area. However, whether these incidents are related is currently unknown.
Regardless of what investigations unearth, it's important to remember that rail travel is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States.
In fact, the risk of dying in a car accident is 17 times higher than your odds of being killed in a train crash.
On average only about 7 people die per year on passenger trains in the US.
The vast majority of people killed or injured by trains occurs in accidents at grade crossings—either between the train and pedestrians or the train and motor vehicles.
While it's important to be mindful of your surroundings near train tracks and crossings, the fact of the matter is that accidents like the one in Philadelphia make the news—not the thousands of safe trips.
Accidents are extremely rare, and this isolated incident shouldn't stop you from using commuter trains or light rail.
What happened in Philadelphia was a tragedy, but calling for an end to rail travel isn't the solution.