Yes, a Tragic Accident Rocked DC's Metro System. No, You Shouldn't Get Off the Train.

washington dc subway tragedy photo

Photo via the NY Times

As you've likely heard, at least 9 people were killed and up to 70 were injured in when one train rammed into another on Washington DC's Metro's Red line. The precise cause of the crash is so far unknown, though it's thought to be either a technical failure or a possible driver error, or a combination of the two. And yes--as you've probably seen in the headlines--it's the worst accident in the history of the Metro system. But no, you most certainly should not stop riding the subway. Here's why.One simple way of putting it is this: this is the worst accident in the history of DC's Metro system. Now, I'm not being insensitive to the fact that a tragedy has occurred--it's truly terrible, and I'm deeply sorry for the victims and their loved ones--but accidents like these are rare, and garner attention precisely for that reason.

Mathew Yglesias puts it well:

Fatal train accidents are national news stories precisely because they’re so rare. Deadly car crashes are a dog-bites-man story. Obviously, what happened was unacceptable but the fact remains that commuting by rail is very safe.

Very, very safe, by comparison to other modes of transportation--especially driving. Over 40,000 Americans die each year in car crashes, though most of those accidents don't make the headlines of national news outlets.

By contrast, less than 800 people die from train and subway accidents each year, as of 2005 (many of which are, sadly, workers). And that number has been declining steadily, too, over the last couple decades--even with more people than ever taking public transit.

It's why mayors from the nation's major cities are all battling to get more funding for similar metro systems--it relieves congestion, reduces accidents and fatalities, and cuts carbon emissions to boot.

The point is, taking the train is a truly safe way to travel, and it's getting even safer. New technology (that the DC Metro trains were actually supposed to already have) enables a computer to trigger the train's brakes automatically if it gets too close to another train. So take heart:it's a dangerous world out there, but taking the train is one of the safer--and as we all know, greener--bets you can make.

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