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Schumer Calls For Cameras On Metro-North Trains After Derailment

NTSB officials retrieve an event recorder from the derailed Metro-North train in the Bronx. Photo
NTSB officials retrieve an event recorder from the derailed Metro-North train in the Bronx. Photo Photo Credit: National Transportation Safety Board

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Installing cameras on Metro-North trains could prevent another accident such as last week’s derailment that left four people dead and dozens injured, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) said Sunday at Grand Central Terminal.

Cameras pointed at engineers and at the tracks should be required by the Federal Railroad Administration, the Democratic lawmakers said in a statement and at the news conference in New York.

“I’m perplexed as to why, for the past few years, the FRA has been sitting on a list of life-saving recommendation  that may very well prevent dangerous behavior onboard our commuter trains,” said Schumer. “We’ve now learned that the engineer in last week’s deadly derailment may have dozed off due to ‘highway hypnosis.’ Inward facing cameras may help railroad managers detect dangerous patterns amongst engineers ahead of time, and also help investigators determine the cause of a future rail accident. It’s time the FRA gets onboard with the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation.”

The senators urged the FRA to immediately begin requiring the cameras. In the wake of a 2008 railway collision in California with 26 fatalities, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended inward-facing cameras, which would monitor train crew performance, as well as outward-facing cameras, which would be used to monitor crossing accidents and to recognize broken or deficient tracks.

The FRA has yet to take any regulatory action putting these recommendations in place. Schumer and Blumenthal said the recording devices would be a deterrent for dangerous behavior, such as falling asleep or texting, and would allow rail officials to monitor and correct such behavior before a tragic accident occurred.

It could also be used after a rail crash to determine the cause of the crash, the said. No camera systems were in place on the three Metro-North trains involved in accidents this year.

"I am astonished and appalled by delays in implementing these vital safety devices, risking danger and death," said Blumenthal, D-Conn. “Audio and video recording tools can help prevent operator error and equipment failure -- likely causes of the horrific Bronx tragedy. Failure to implement these life-saving steps is inexplicable and inexcusable.

"The FRA should immediately require Metro-North and all railroads to implement these simple straightforward cost effective measures, sending a message that misconduct or mistakes will be recorded and that there will be accountability. I commend the FRA's recent Emergency Order, and hope that it can be expanded to include required installation of audio and visual recorders.”

On Dec. 1, a Metro-North train derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, N.Y., killing four passengers and injuring 67. The train was traveling at 82 mph in a 30 mph zone. According to media reports, the train engineer admitted to “nodding off.”

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