(Extracted from the Washington Post report on yesterday's fatal train crash in Washington===and raising the politically incorrect question.)
There was no reason to think that the operator did not spot the train ahead of her yesterday. The weather was clear, and the trains were not in a tunnel.
"It doesn't look like she hit the brakes," said a train safety expert, who asked not to be identified because the crash is under investigation. "That's why you have an operator in the cab. She should have been able to take action. That's what they're there for."
These systems were supposed to make yesterday's crash impossible.
But four years ago, in an episode eerily similar to yesterday's, the signal system briefly failed in the tunnel between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn, forcing two quick-thinking operators to stop their trains manually to avoid a crash.
In the June 2005 incident, the operator of one train noticed that he was getting too close to the train ahead. The signal system was telling him the track was clear, but he hit the brakes. The operator of a third train on the line hit the emergency brakes on time, too.