New Jersey Transit Has Highest Accident Rate Among Top Commuter Rail Lines in US

Records from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) indicate that New Jersey Transit had the most accidents in 2016 among the top 10 largest commuter railroads in the nation.

The rail agency has been under state and federal investigation for its numerous violations of safety rules and various operating protocols, and this newly released information from the FRA gives some more insight as to why that’s the case. The 21 accidents New Jersey Transit experienced last year was more than double that of the Long Island Railroad, which was second on the list.

Additionally, New Jersey Transit had the most mechanical breakdowns of any passenger railroad in the nation in 2015, the most recent year for which there’s complete data.

The transit agency has faced some significant funding challenges in recent years, likely contributing to its safety issues. While ridership is constantly increasing, public funding for the agency has plateaued, which means commuters are having to pay higher fares despite greater delays and crowding at the stations.

Now, the agency is also responsible under a federal mandate for installing positive train control by December 2018. The technology can prevent accidents caused by human error. It was supposed to be complete by December 2015, but the agency received an extension after reporting to Congress that without sufficient funding, it would not be able to complete the project in time.

The cost of the project has risen to about $320 million, which is 42 percent more than planned. As of October, the agency had not yet installed the technology on any of its trains or track segments, and none of its employees had been trained on how to use it.

Rail accidents by the numbers

Transportation experts hope the introduction of the technology will help to decrease the number of accidents associated with New Jersey Transit trains. One piece of good news is that the total accidents for the agency were lower in 2016 than they have been since 2007.

Over the last 10 years, there have been 314 New Jersey Transit accidents. Human behavior was a primary factor in 165 of those accidents, compared to just 169 in the other nine of the top 10 railroads combined in that same time period.

Of the human error factors at play, one of the most noteworthy is crew fatigue, which is responsible for about 25 percent of train accidents nationwide. In last year’s crash in Hoboken, the engineer was revealed to have undiagnosed sleep apnea, a disorder that causes tiredness.

Also at issue are the dozens of safety violations committed railroad crews have committed over the last year. The FRA investigation into New Jersey Transit includes violations related to personal phone use while on duty and a lack of on-board emergency tools, among others.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a public transportation accident you believe was the result of negligence, you may be able to seek compensation. Consult an experienced New York personal injury lawyer at Robinson & Yablon for further information and guidance.