General Category

Some of the Worst Public Transportation Accidents in the U.S.

The daily commute: for most of us, it is part of life. Thanks to a 300 percent increase in gas prices from 2000 to 2008, more and more of us are choosing public transportation to get to work over personal vehicles. We rely on our lawmakers and public transportation officials to make sure our buses and roads and metro systems operate safely every day. With about 10 billion trips taken on public transport every year, we do put our lives in their hands. However, what happens when things do not quite turn out so routinely?

Ferry

Remember the 2003 Staten Island Ferry accident? In October, 2003, one of the vessels used to shuttle people to Manhattan crashed into the St. George Ferry Terminal, killing 11 people and injuring almost 75. Since its debut in 1905, the Staten Island Ferry’s history has been peppered with accidents, some with significant casualties. The pilot was said to have fallen asleep at the wheel, which quelled terrorism fears for residents of the New York City area. It is considered one of the worst ferry disasters in U.S. history.

The same boat was involved in another accident seven years later in 2010, but, fortunately, this time no lives were lost. The passengers experienced what’s called a “hard landing” as a result of poorly functioning cells that power the propellers. The pilots could not slow the boat enough to prepare for docking because of a stuck lever. Although the Department of Transportation did not get blamed for the 2003 accident, with only eight boats in operation for over 60 million people annually, maybe a tune-up every now could prevent future lives from being lost.

Bus

Buses provide the most frequent public transportation for U.S. residents simply because of availability. Ferryboats require water, but all major cities have a bus public transit system. Buses can be chartered, and they take our children to school. They are used in a variety of circumstances, not limited to a commute. Because of their far-reaching versatility, the probability of an accident occurring increases.

One of the deadliest bus accidents took place in 1976 in Calif., near Martinez. The bus was carrying a high school a cappella choir on a field trip when the driver lost control of the vehicle and it went over a cliff, killing 28 of the passengers. More recently, a bus helping to shuttle people out of Hurricane Rita’s path exploded after it caught fire in 2005 south of Dallas, Tx. Twenty-three people lost their lives.

Our nation’s bus record is filled with accidents caused by driver error, weather conditions and faulty equipment. How much of these could have been prevented? How many are just extremely unfortunate events? The sheer frequency in which we use buses as our public transportation of choice would suggest some accidents; no company can boast a perfect record. Here’s a look at a few over the past 30 years:

  • In 1988, 27 people died when a church bus in Carrollton, Ky., was involved in a head-on collision with a pickup truck.
  • In 1999, a bus in Bay St. Louis, Miss., ran off the road because of driver error, killing 22 people. It was later determined the driver had several substances in his system.
  • In 2011, a pole sliced a bus in half after the bus overturned on the highway while on a return trip to New York City from a nearby casino. Thirteen people lost their lives, and 19 were injured.

Train/Subway

You do not hear as much about subway accidents, probably because only a select number of cities in the U.S. have a railway system, but they do happen. In 2009, a crash involving the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or the Metro, claimed the lives of six people. Two trains collided, injuring 76 in addition to the six dead. Although more recent, this accident was nowhere near the worst subway accident in the U.S.

A Brighton Beach Train crashed at Malbone Street, in Brooklyn, NY, as it was speeding toward a tunnel. The 1918 accident claimed 93 lives. The train was running behind schedule, so the operator sped up in an attempt to make up lost time. The accident was so deadly that the street was renamed Empire Boulevard in an effort to quiet its infamy.

Whether you are a commuter, a student or just a traveler, public transportation comes in all shapes and sizes. Most of those 10 billion trips happen without incident. Unfortunately, the very thing we rely on caused some of the worst accidents in U.S. history. A vessel designed for many people also produces the most casualties when things go awry.

Sources:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/technology/nyunderground/death.html

http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Malbone_Street_Wreck_%28New_York_Times,_1918%29

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/06/22/washington.subway.crash/index.html?eref=rss_us

http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20110312/at-a-glance-deadliest-bus-accidents-in-us-history

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/05/the-10-best-and-10-worst-cities-for-public-transportation/238985/

http://www.silive.com/news/ferry/crash/

http://nypost.com/2014/04/06/si-ferry-captain-warns-the-ships-are-ticking-time-bombs/

Rebecca Short is a freelance writer with a special focus on larger scale accidents, in particular those relating to public transportation. When friends or family get hurt in such an accident, the inevitable question of legal action comes up, and to help handle any legal claims pertaining to such accidents she recommends going to www.heil-law.com. To learn more about Rebecca, you can visit Google+.

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