The Long Island Rail Road derailment at Atlantic Terminal Wednesday morning was another frightening reminder of the urgent need to make sure our transportation systems are equipped with the most modern safety devices and that operators of trains and buses are closely monitored for health or behavioral problems.
It was a terrifying few minutes for hundreds of commuters when the packed 7:18 train from Far Rockaway failed to stop at its destination in Brooklyn, crashing into barriers and then a small glass room at the end of Track 6. Despite the sudden jolt that sent the crowded first car into the air and knocked over many passengers who were already standing to exit, shaken commuters were able to evacuate amid the dust, smoke and broken glass. More than 100 were injured, although most reportedly suffered bumps and bruises. It is fortunate that the injuries were not worse, for the damage was substantial to several cars, with a piece of rail piercing the floor of the first car.
The incident came four months after the deadly crash of a New Jersey Transit train in Hoboken that federal investigators determined was caused by the engineer failing to stop the train because of sleep apnea. In both instances, there was no margin for error because the track ends at the terminal.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Tom Prendergast suggested that human error was Wednesday’s cause. The operator either failed to brake or did not brake in time. If so, was he ill or distracted? What measures need to be taken to reduce these risks? In any case, there is technology that could have determined that the train, which had slowed, was entering the station too fast and which could have activated a mechanism to stop it. — The editorial board