In wake of Metro-North derailment, many wonder if trains should have seat belts

YONKERS, N.Y. (PIX11) – Most of us do it every time we get in the car.

Flight attendants show us how to do it before we’re clear for take-off.

But on a train riders don’t even have the option to put on a seat belt.

“It is concerning. In any event I would say it’s concerning,” said Peter O’Hara of Washington Heights.

Now, after the latest Metro-North derailment on the Hudson line, some riders say they’d at least like the option to buckle-up.

“I’m all for it if it makes it safer.  Absolutely,” said Jordan Bendat-Appell, who is from Chicago.

Bendat-Appell had to take Metro-North while visiting.

After learning about the accident, he says he made an extra effort to stay safe during a bus and cab ride to the Yonkers station. “And I went out of my way to put a seat belt on,” he said.

But experts say riding the rails is different than riding an airplane or driving in your own car.  They say adding seat belts and buckling up would do little to improve safety on the trains.

“The seat belt purpose and what makes it useful in an airliner and an automobile is because there’s a very clear known direction of the force that the person is going to face. And in a train, in a derailment or a crash of a train, the direction of force that you’re going to experience is not clear,” said Steven Harrod, Assistant Professor at Dayton University, who specializes in transportation research.

Harrod says the problem with seat belts on trains is that a large portion of riders are standing.

But even those who get a seat may be better off without buckling up.

According to a study of British rails, adding seat belts actually increased injuries during train accidents. Harrod says forcing people to strap in would impact one of the biggest selling points for trains: freedom to move.

 “So if you start having seat belts and you truly, truly think people are going to be buckled in, it really changes the product that you’re selling,” he said.

But without enforcement, which Harrod said is an added burden on the rail industry, even some riders acknowledge they might not use a seat belt during their commute.

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