Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Fasten Your Seatbelt

Yisrael Rutman

All the technology in the world can’t seem to make life perfectly safe. Can anything be done to prevent at least some accidents? Yes and no…

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

 Mishpacha image



mtrak Jumps the Track

In December, an Amtrak train in Washington State went off the tracks, killing three people and injuring about 100 others. The cause of the accident is still a mystery. The main questions: Why was the train — on its first run — going 80 mph in a 30-mph zone? Why wasn’t Positive Train Control (PTC), a system that automatically slows trains going too fast, not installed on that stretch of track?

Why it was traveling over the speed limit is not known. But we have a pretty good idea about why it didn’t have PTC to slow it down when it did: It’s the fault of Congress, which approved PTC but “didn’t give any money for it,” according to Allan Zarembski, director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware.

It also seems the tight curve where the train derailed was supposed to be straightened to allow high speed without hazard. But since it would cost $412 million to rebuild it, they decided to lower the speed limit to 30 mph instead.

One thing to keep in mind about such accidents: they’re big news but rare. In Amtrak’s case, from 2006 to 2014, only five people were killed in train accidents. In an average year, there are only seven passenger fatalities on US trains overall. Or, 0.43 per billion passenger miles. That’s a lot safer than cars, where the risks are 17 times higher.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board assigned a team of 20 investigators to find the cause and recommend preventions.

The Titanic

The sinking of the Titanic is probably the most famous accident in history. The passenger liner — which its builders claimed was “unsinkable” — sank on its very first voyage, on April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg. Many people died that night in the North Atlantic Ocean off the Newfoundland coast.

The ship was thought to be unsinkable because of the watertight design of its bulkheads, the walls of the ship. The builders had thought of everything. Except that the walls weren’t fully waterproof. Another thing they didn’t think of was lifeboats. There weren’t enough of them. Only 16, which could hold 1,178 people. That night, over 3,000 people were on board.

Although ocean liner companies today are careful not to boast about their vessels being “unsinkable” (it still happens but very rarely), lessons were learned from the Titanic. Today’s ships are made to be really watertight; and they carry lots more lifeboats.

There’s also a much more sophisticated system for locating icebergs. The US Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol (IIP) uses planes equipped with special radar, and satellite observations are plugged in too.

The system has been a great success. Over almost 100 years, not a single ship using the IIP has struck an iceberg. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 694)

Related Stories

Wood You Believe These Trees

Sivi Sekula

Chewing gum owes its life to trees, as do loads of other everyday items you’d never have believed co...

Super Avi: Episode 13

Ruchama Schnaidman and Avi Newhouse

“Don’t think that if you hear what I want through, you perfectly understand another person’s cancer ...

Song of the Sea: Chapter 34

Rivka Streicher

“When you’ve been in the same place for so long, it’s hard to change, even if you know it’s not the ...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"