NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana. While it still isn’t entirely clear why an Amtrak train derailed in Washington, leaving three people dead and another 100 hospitalized, initial reports indicate that speeding and distracted driving may be involved. It’s a sadly common story. A driver looks down at his or her phone and, in doing so, misses the red light, the stop sign, the pedestrian stepping into the street. Or, a driver, trying to get to work on time, pushes down on the gas, and as a result, loses control of his or her vehicle.

The New York Times reports that the driver of the Amtrak train may have been traveling as much as 50 miles over the posted speed limit for that given section of track. The train was traveling at 80 miles per hour on a part of track designed to be traveled at 30 miles per hour. The fact that the crew didn’t use the emergency brake has some wondering whether distracted driving might have played a role.

Investigators will also need to consider the fact that the derailment occurred during the train’s maiden voyage on that particular set of track. Lawmakers had already expressed some concern about the safety of the new train route. The New York Times reports that the tracks on the new route had only recently undergone improvements.

Many train routes have critical sections of track where a train’s speed must be carefully regulated. If the driver was still getting familiar with the track, even a moment’s distraction could have been sufficient to result in the kind of injuries we’ve seen in this wreck. While technology exists that could have potentially prevented the crash, it isn’t clear whether it was used in the wreck. Positive train control is a system that can stop or slow down a train when it is traveling too fast on a section of track. According to CNN, the train was using centralized traffic control, which cannot stop a train in the same way that positive train control can.

The Amtrak train accident should be a wake-up call to Amtrak and to the way that trains are run and maintained in this country. Why weren’t appropriate safety systems put in place when they are available? But, the accident is also a larger referendum to all drivers. Distracted driving and speeding kills. Every year thousands are killed and hundreds of thousands are injured in distracted driving motor vehicle accidents. Whether it means putting down the phone, not taking a call, or avoiding conversations while driving, taking action to avoid distracted driving can save your life.

Smith Stag are car wreck lawyers in New Orleans, Louisiana who work with families and victims of crashes. Our firm has seen too many accidents that could have been prevented had individuals put down their phones and focused on safe driving. If you have been in a crash, you may be entitled to seek damages under the law. Visit our personal injury law site at to learn more.