Hoxie Crash Highlights Railroad Safety Issues

- HOXIE, AR - A railroad crash investigator says the most recent head-on crash in northeast Arkansas is symptomatic of an industry struggling to adapt new safety regulations.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the investigation and cleanup of the deadly collision in Lawrence County will take several more days.

However, the issue of head-on accidents is not isolated to Arkansas.

A commuter and freight train collided in Los Angeles in 2008, killing 25 and injuring another 100.

And two freight trains collided in the Oklahoma panhandle in June 2012, killing three crew members.

Bob Comer, a train accident researcher and investigator says the major railroad companies have been slow to adopt nationally mandated safety requirements.

"They don't want to spend the money that it takes to install high tech equipment that would prevent head on collisions," Comer says. "The problem is the railroad industry has been resisting the installation of positive train control, PTC, which used GPS tracking."

Positive Train Control is a safeguard Congress put in place in 2008 for the industry to meet by the end of 2015.

But now the Association of American Railroads says only 20-percent of United States rail track will meet the deadline.

Comer estimates approximately 1-percent of locomotives have any form of GPS tracking.

"That's just plain ridiculous.  And the worst thing about it is, it's getting people killed," Comer says.  "The end result is always the same.  More accidents, more collisions, more releases of hazardous materials and people being injured and killed."

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