The Office of Research and Development of the Federal Railroad Administration conducts engineering research to address protection of passengers and crew during train accidents. This research includes accident investigations and dynamic seat testing to assess occupant injury during simulated accident conditions.
Observations from selected accident investigations are compared with dynamic seat test results, based on the requirements in the Standard for Passenger Seats in Passenger Rail Cars, APTA-SS-C&S-99-016 , referred to simply as the Seat Standard. The Seat Standard requires sled testing of rail passenger seats to demonstrate that seats provide a minimum level of crashworthiness in the event of an accident.
The interior crashworthiness comparisons between accidents and seat tests are based on the deceleration time history (crash pulse), damage to seats and/or tables, injury type and severity, and occupant kinematics. These comparisons have been made to assess the degree to which current test practice produces injury measurements and interior fixture damage that are consistent with the injuries and equipment damage observed in accidents. When test results and accident observations do not compare well, revisions to the prescribed test conditions may be warranted.
The following three accidents have been selected for comparison in this paper. They were selected from accident investigations in which the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center participated, the amount of relevant data collected during the investigation, and the dynamic seat test data that was available for comparison of the specific type of seats or tables involved in the accidents. The accidents represent a range of accident speeds, type of equipment, and collision severity:
- passenger train to freight train collision with a closing speed of 80 mph in Chatsworth, California, on September 12, 2008 ;
- passenger train to freight train collision with a closing speed of 33 mph in Chicago, Illinois, on November 30, 2007 [3, 4];
- passenger train to freight car collision with a closing speed of 23 mph in Canton, Massachusetts, on March 25, 2008.
A companion paper provides detail on the structural crashworthiness of the cars in the same three accidents, and describes the computer models that were developed to estimate the crash pulse, or acceleration-time history, for each rail car in the accidents .