Traditional passenger trains have almost become sort of a novelty in today's society. With the invention of airplanes and the modern passenger vehicle, trains have taken a back seat in transporting people from place to place. But trains are still one of the nation's most important avenues of transporting goods between cities and states. With such frequent use the safety of the U.S. rail lines and the trains that use them continues to be of the utmost importance.
44 people were injured when two trains collided head-on along the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. The passengers were on a sightseeing excursion when their train stalled on the track for an as yet unknown reason. The railway accident occurred when a second train, which was sent to help the stalled train, failed to stop in time to avoid the first train.
Although the train's brakes were applied prior to the collision the train was traveling faster than the 20 mile per hour safe limit. Of the 44 injured passengers one remains in critical condition while most have been released. Officials have started their investigation into the crash and are expected to spend 4-6 days figuring out why the crash occurred.
Determining negligence can be a long and arduous process, especially in cases where facts can be interpreted in different ways by similarly situated individuals. In the current case the second train was travelling at 28 miles per hour at the time the breaks were applied. While that is over the 20 mile per hour "safe speed," it is well below the 35 mile per hour max speed of the track, and the facts don't reveal how far away the breaks were applied and if this was a safe distance. In situations such as this courts will not only apply the "reasonable person," standard, but will also look for adherence to industry standards, procedures and policy.
Source: 5News, "NTSB: Train Was Traveling At 25 Miles Per Hour At Time Of Impact," Curt Lanning, Oct. 17, 2014