Human and mechanical errors looked at in Chicago train accident

Officials are still looking into what exactly caused Monday’s train accident when a Chicago commuter train somehow jumped the tracks, sending it crashing up to the top of an escalator at the O’Hare International Airport. In this crash, while more than 30 people were injured, miraculously no one was killed. However, this being said, officials need to get to the bottom of what happened — for if there is a next time — train passengers and pedestrians may not be as lucky.

According to the union that represents Chicago Transit Authority workers, operator fatigue — with the operator possibly even dozing off — may have been a contributing factor to the accident. However, this may not have been the only contributing factor, as federal investigators announced the day after the crash that a piece of emergency safety equipment may have also failed.

In looking at the possibility of human error — with the operator possibly dozing off during her shift — this may end up being indicative of a larger issue. According to the union president, the operator had started her shift at 8 p.m. This was after having 17 hours off. However, it was noted that she had recently put in a lot of overtime hours. Who knows, maybe this led to a dangerous level of fatigue?

In terms of the possibility of mechanical failure, there is an emergency braking system in place. An investigator said the side-track system was activated, but the train did still jump the tracks. Now, officials are trying to figure out if the emergency braking system activated on time.

At this time, there is no clear answer on what was the 100 percent cause — or contributing causes — that led to this accident. However, for those who ride the trains in Chicago, the message here is that when there is an accident with injuries, there may be more than one party responsible. An attorney who has experience handling train accidents will be able to provide more information on what next steps need to be taken.

Source:, “Emergency brake failed to stop Chicago train,” Jason Keyser, March 25, 2014