A federal rail safety agency plans to propose a rule that might require the installation of video cameras aboard trains to monitor drivers and record accidents or unsafe behavior, according to two U.S. senators who have pushed for the change.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, said Sunday that they received a letter from Federal Railroad Administration officials saying the agency plans to begin the process of establishing the rule sometime this year.
The regulation would cover cameras installed in train cabs to record drivers as well as outward-facing cameras that scan the tracks.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been urging the Railroad Administration to boost the use of safety cameras since a train collision in California in 2008 killed 25 people.
Schumer and Blumenthal publicly urged the Federal Railroad Administration to act faster last month, following the deadly Metro-North train derailment in the Bronx.
On Dec. 1, an early-morning train flew off the tracks when it entered a curve at nearly three times the allowed speed. Officials said the engineer told investigators he experienced a "nod" or "daze" at the controls. Four people died.
It is unclear whether a camera system could have prevented that accident, but the two senators said recording equipment would at least help investigators reconstruct future accidents and detect dangerous conditions.
"Rolling this program out across our entire rail network means that we will now be able to identify damaged infrastructure and dangerous behavior onboard our commuter trains before it leads to another deadly disaster," Schumer said.
Blumenthal said cameras "will also ensure that misconduct and mistakes are recorded so those involved can be held accountable."
A few rail systems, including Amtrak, already use cameras to record signals and gate crossings.
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo said in his late-December letter to the senators that the Association of American Railroads has been conducting a pilot program involving inward- and outward-facing cameras during the past year. The Railroad Administration has been monitoring that study and evaluating the safety benefits.