Reducing the harm in rail crashes : analysis of injury mechanisms and mitigation strategies
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Reducing the harm in rail crashes : analysis of injury mechanisms and mitigation strategies

Filetype[PDF-4.53 MB]


  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Proceedings of the ASME IEEE ASCE 2016 Joint Rail Conference
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    • Abstract:
      Twenty-three commuter and inter-city passenger train

      accidents, which occurred over the past twenty years, have been

      analyzed. The analysis has assessed the potential effectiveness

      of various injury mitigation strategies. The strategies with the

      greatest potential to increase passenger safety are interior

      occupant protection, coupler integrity, end structure integrity,

      side structure integrity, and glazing system integrity. We

      recommend that these strategies be researched further.

      Three types of accidents were analyzed: train-to-train

      collisions, derailments, and grade-crossing collisions. Train-totrain

      collisions include the commuter train-freight train collision

      in Chatsworth, California on September 12, 2008. In Chatsworth

      a commuter train collided with a freight train at a closing speed

      of ~80 mph, fatally injuring twenty-five people and injuring

      more than 100 others. Derailments include the commuter train

      derailment in Spuyten Duyvil, New York on December 1, 2013,

      fatally injuring four people and injuring more than fifty others.

      Grade-crossing accidents include the commuter-SUV collision

      in Valhalla, New York on February 3, 2015, which resulted in six

      fatally injured people, including the SUV driver, and thirteen

      severely injured people.

      Four categories of mitigation strategies were considered:

      train crashworthiness, wayside structure crashworthiness, fire

      safety, and emergency preparedness. Within each of these

      categories are equipment features, which may potentially be

      modified to further mitigate injuries. The features are simple

      noun phrases, e.g., “floor strength,” implying that the floor

      strength should be increased. Train crashworthiness includes

      features such as end strength, floor strength, coupler separation,

      and numerous others. Wayside structure crashworthiness

      includes features such as frangible catenary poles and third rail

      end caps. Fire safety includes train interior and train exterior

      features for minimizing the potential for fire and for reducing the

      rate at which fire might spread. Emergency preparedness

      includes features for emergency egress, access, lighting, signage,

      and on-board equipment, such as fire extinguishers.

      Overall, rail passenger travel has a high level of safety, and

      passenger train accidents are rare events. The numbers are low

      for expected casualties per passenger-mile and casualties per

      passenger-trip. A high level of safety, however, does not mean

      efforts to improve it should cease. But it does mean that crashes

      are rare events. Rare events in complex systems are notoriously

      difficult to analyze with confidence. There are too few accidents

      to provide the data needed for even a moderate degree of

      mathematical confidence in statistical analysis. Analyses of

      similar data in medical and scientific fields have been shown to

      be prone to the biases of the researchers, sometimes in subtle and

      difficult-to-detect ways. As a means of coping with the sparse

      data and potential biases, the goal has been to evaluate the

      accidents transparently and comprehensively. This approach

      allows a wide audience to understand how injuries and fatalities

      occur in passenger train accidents and, most importantly, allows

      us to prioritize mitigation strategies for research.

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