Automatic Train Control in Relation to Railroad Casualties

August 14, 1924
Entire Report

Recent orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission give reason to assume that the railroads will be compelled to hasten the development and installation of systems of automatic train control. The Commission has been studying such systems for eighteen years and now believes the art to have reached such a stage that extensive installations should be made. Two major effects are expected to be felt from an accelerated development of this device, both of primary importance to the public. First, it is presumed that there will be a substantial reduction in the number of railroad casualties, and, second, an important new industry, that of the production and installation of the devices, will spring up, providing additional employment for labor and introducing new securities into the investment market.

Railroad Casualties

During 1921, the last year for which complete official statistics are available, railroad casualties to persons were 5,851 killed and 47,989 injured. It appears that railroad employees are numerous victims of railroad accidents of all kinds as well as passengers. The figures show for purely train accidents but 416 killed and 4,922 injured whereas train service accidents which include the multitude of mischances arising from switching in yards, section gang labor and a wide variety of other events, show 5,435 killed and 43,067 injured. For 1921 the figures are: Total: killed, 5,587; injured 43,324; of which in train accidents, 358 killed and 4,065 injured; and in train service, 5,229 killed and 39,259 injured. For 1920: Total: killed, 6,495, and 63,786 injured of which in train accidents, 584 killed and 8,209 injured; and in train service, 5,911 killed and 55,577 injured. Passengers were victims in both classes of accidents.

Figures for 1923 are available in official form only for the quarter ended December 3, 1923. They show totals as follows: for last quarter, 1923: killed 1,722 and 14,001 injured. Last quarter 1922, killed 1,666 and 14,719 injured. Last quarter 1921 killed 1,470 and 11,672 injured.

Causes of Accidents

Another group of statistics reveals that a large proportion of the casualties are due to human causes, the failure of employes to obey instructions or otherwise to perform in a theoretically proper manner. For the calendar year 1923, the Interstate Commerce Commission reported upon a total of 104 accidents. These were thoroughly investigated by the Commission's Bureau of Safety with the purpose of establishing blame. Out of 104 accidents, no less than 70 were found to be due directly to personal failures, 34 being due in whole or in part to causes beyond the control of the persons operating trains or responsible for their safe conduct.

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