The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending that Amtrak install cameras in the engineer cabins of its trains after a deadly crash in May.
The agency said Amtrak should install "crash- and fire-protected inward- and outward-facing audio and image recorders in the operating cabs of all of its trains, and review the recordings to ensure that crew actions are in accordance with procedures."
NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said the cameras would provide invaluable information to investigators in an event like the recent Amtrak crash.
“The information that recorders can provide to ensure that crews are consistently operating trains safely is just too valuable to ignore,” Hart said in a statement. “And recordings can provide critical information in understanding crew actions prior to accidents, which can help prevent tragedies like the recent derailment in Philadelphia.”
The NTSB's initial investigation of the crash, which occurred near Philadelphia, revealed the derailed Amtrak train was traveling 106 miles per hour as it approached a curved section of track. Eight passengers were killed in the crash and more than a hundred others were injured.
Investigators struggled to determine whether the train's operator, who survived the crash, had been using his cellphone in the moments prior to the derailment. The Amtrak engineer was eventually cleared of being distracted, but only after several weeks of the investigators combing his cellphone records.
The NTSB said this week that it has been calling for cameras in train engineer cabins since 1995.
"The NTSB continues to believe inward- and outward-facing audio and image recorders improve the quality of accident investigations and provide the opportunity for proactive steps by railroad management to improve operational safety," the agency wrote in a letter to Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman.
"We have been encouraged by the inclusion of these recommendations in previously proposed rail safety legislation, and we hope this can be part of a rail safety legislative proposal that may be considered by this Congress," the NTSB letter continued.
The full letter can be read here.