DC Metro Trains Still Running Red Lights
February 24, 2016, Washington, D.C., – After a fatal 2009 Metro train cash, where the operator ran a red light signal, killing 8 passengers, DC Metrorail riders hoped for a complete overhaul of Metro’s safety philosophy. Apparently, that didn’t happen.
The Washington Post is reporting today that DC Metro rail trains continue to run red lights, putting the lives and safety of passenger at risk of a major collision.
The Post reports 47 red light violations since 2012. Any one of them could have led to tragedy. Incident reports say train operators are “tuning out” – not paying full time and attention to their duties.
But with so many red light incidents, something more than spaced-out train operators is going on. Metro need to consider human factors engineering. When so many operators make so many mistakes, there is something wrong with WMATA’s safety engineering itself.
Human factor engineering experts apply science to study the physical and psychological characteristics of rail design, devices and systems, and how they are used by humans in real life situations. Train controls are not properly designed when the same human errors reoccur. Human factor engineering can be used to redesign controls to take in to consideration that humans – with all their faults – will be driving Metro trains. The alternative is a fully automated system, where human factors are removed from the equation entirely.
Unfortunately, an accident victim can not sue a municipality or government entity for design decisions, if they are made by a government official exercising his or her discretional function. Suits can be brought for individual cases of negligence, but these law suits have not changed results.
That doesn’t mean that bad design should be tolerated, because it leads to what we have now, a clear and present danger to passengers.