Investigators Fault Driver, Missing Safety Feature in Green Line Crash

In determining the cause of a 2021 Green Line crash that injured 27 people, federal investigators faulted a speeding train operator—as well as a missing safety feature they say would have prevented the accident. Two and a half years after the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report concluding that the driver’s “loss of situational awareness” and “full-power” acceleration caused him to collide with another train.

The investigation also revealed that the accident didn’t have to happen. According to the report, the current Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operations and control system lacks a key engineering feature that would have prevented such a crash. The recommended technology can both detect collision threats and prevent trolleys from violating speed policies. According to the Boston Globe, the NTSB first recommended the crash-avoidance system more than 14 years ago, but it has not yet been installed.

Green Line Train Accident

On July 30, 2021, the light rail vehicle in question collided with the rear of another trolley on the Green Line, causing both trains to derail. The accident sent 24 passengers and three MBTA workers to local hospitals with minor injuries. According to the NTSB report, investigators did not find any track defects, visual obstructions, or mechanical issues that contributed to the crash.

Instead, investigators determined that the driver collided with the train in front of him without even applying his brakes. The operator apparently lost “situational awareness” (possibly falling asleep) and accelerated before impact, reaching speeds as high as 23 miles per hour above the limit. Alcohol and drug tests were negative, but the investigation discovered that the driver had eight documented disciplinary actions on his record. The MBTA later fired the operator.

“Lax Safety Culture” at the MBTA

The recent NTSB report comes on the heels of another federal investigation into the MBTA’s rail transit system. After a “pattern of safety incidents” that included train derailments, collisions, injuries, and fatalities, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) called out the MBTA’s “lax safety culture.” In 2022, the FTA conducted a safety management inspection looking into the T’s compliance with safety rules, procedures, and standards. In August, the agency released a final report ordering the MBTA to address over 50 problem areas, ranging from staffing issues to operating policies.

MBTA Accident Lawyers

In addition to MBTA train crashes, accidents occur on MBTA buses, MBTA platforms, and The RIDE. If you were seriously hurt in any type of MBTA incident, you may qualify to receive financial compensation for your injuries. A local personal injury attorney can help you seek funds to cover medical bills, lost wages, rehabilitation, disability, and more.

With over 50 years of experience in the Boston area, Altman & Altman LLP is uniquely positioned to handle MBTA cases. We understand the specific laws that relate to public transportation lawsuits in Massachusetts and have successfully represented hundreds of MBTA injury clients. Contact us today online or by phone at 800.481.6199 for a free consultation with an MBTA injury lawyer.


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