Remembering the Lessons Learned from the Red Line Accident

By Debbie Hersman

Two years ago today, nine people lost their lives when two Washington, DC, Metro trains collided. In our accident report issued a year after the crash, the NTSB cited the failure of track circuit as the probable cause of the accident. But just as troubling as that failure was, our investigation also revealed a systemic breakdown of safety management at all levels at Metro.

Safety management is essential in transportation organizations. A robust safety management system, or SMS, helps organizations identify deficiencies and address them before they result in an accident. In addition, the discipline and standardization of an SMS sets the stage for a positive safety culture, in which employees are encouraged, even rewarded, for providing essential safety-related information. Such a safety culture would have made a huge difference at Metro.

Today is the anniversary of a very sad day for those who lost family and friends in the accident near Fort Totten and it reminds us that we cannot forget the lessons learned in the aftermath of that tragedy. Although more work needs to be done, General Manager Richard Sarles and the new Metro Board of Directors have committed to implementing all of the NTSB’s recommendations. We look forward to the day when that happens.

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