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Was the Amtrak Accident Another Case of Distracted Driving?

In December, a deadly train accident occurred in Washington state and authorities are looking into whether or not the train engineer was distracted at the time of the crash. Three people were killed in the crash, and all of the crew members were injured severely enough to be hospitalized. Investigators have said that the train was speeding at 80mph and that the conductor was also in the cab with the engineer. Was the Amtrak accident another case of distracted driving?

Investigation into the Washington Amtrak Crash

Although there were two cameras in the engineer’s cab, both were seriously damaged in the accident. They were sent to a lab in Washington D.C. in an attempt to pull any photos which would give investigators a reason for the accident. It is hoped the information on these cameras could potentially identify the exact distraction involved.

Cell phone records of the engineer and the entire crew will be carefully scrutinized. Drug and alcohol test results for the crew and engineer will likely also be released at some point. While the engineer could certainly have been distracted, he could also have been fatigued, or impaired—the same issues that are often responsible for large truck accidents.

The train was running on a new part of the railroad track, and had only been operating on this new part for a couple of weeks—with no passengers. Some questions have been raised regarding the engineer’s level of training on the new part of the tracks. A couple of years ago, another Amtrak train crashed in Philadelphia, killing eight people, and like the most recent Amtrak crash in Washington, that train also took a curve at an excessive speed, subsequently derailing.

The term “situational awareness” was used in the Philadelphia crash, as in, the engineer lost situational awareness, and was not entirely cognizant of where he was on the track at the time of the crash. In the most recent Amtrak crash, the engineer might not have been 100 percent familiar with the route, or perhaps also suffered from a loss of situational awareness, misjudging where he was on the route, thus failing to slow down. In a 2008 commuter train crash in Los Angeles, which killed 25 people, it was later found the engineer was composing a text message, causing him to run a red light and collide with a freight train.

Further Reading: Motorcycle Accident Trauma Statistics

Was Engineer Distracted in Washington Amtrak Collision?

Those who persist in doing many other things besides driving—while driving—will likely see the distracted laws continue to increase in severity. But what about the increase in the number of train crashes over the past few years—is distracted driving to blame for these accidents as well?

Authorities focusing on the recent fatal Amtrak crash near Tacoma, Washington, say it is possible that the engineer of the train was distracted by the same type of distractions vehicle drivers experience every day when the Amtrak train took a dangerous curve at a shocking 50 mph over the posted speed limit.

The truth may or may not come to light regarding the cause of the accident. What is known is that there was no activation of the emergency brake before the train derailed, therefore investigators are fairly sure there must have been some type of distraction in the cab which kept the engineer from realizing the dangerously high rate of speed present as the train approached the deadly curve.  

Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys Today

The Lafayette Personal Injury Law Firm of Hull & Zimmerman, P.C.Unfortunately, distracted driving claims far too many lives in accidents across the country. From car accidents to train accidents, if you have been injured by a distracted driver, we can help. At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., our committed personal injury lawyers are dedicated to the belief that everyone deserves justice. Contact us at (303) 423-1770 or (866) 385-3505.

Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience representing injured accident victims in Broomfield, Arvada, Superior, Lafayette, Louisville, Erie, Brighton, Commerce City, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, Longmont, and throughout Colorado.




At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., we are honored to help accident victims in their time of need, and take our responsibility as personal injury lawyers incredibly seriously. We know how important it is for victims to secure the full and fair compensation they need following a serious accident, and that is why we take a hands-on, personalized approach to every case we handle.

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