CTA: How Safe Is Chicago’s Transportation System?

The 2014 O’Hare station train crash raised many questions about the safety of the Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses. It was first thought that the driver of the train was speeding pulling into the station, but it was later revealed that the driver, Brittney Haywood, had dozed off at the controls. 34 people were injured as a result of the O’Hare accident. The CTA lowered the speed limit pulling into the station from 25 miles an hour to 15 miles an hour. However, the real cause of the accident was likely driver fatigue.

The transit authority did change its guidelines shortly after the crash, though they claim the hours that Haywood worked weren’t the cause of the accident, according to the Chicago Tribune. The new rules state that drivers must have at least one day off a week, and they increased the time a driver must take between shifts, from 8 to 10 hours. Train operators can’t work more than 12 hours in any fourteen hour period. This includes layovers and non driving duties. They also put restrictions on first year drivers, saying they couldn’t drive more than 32 hours a week. They will be allowed to perform non driving duties in the remaining hours.

In the case of the driver who caused the accident, The CTA claims she had worked more than 55 hours in the last seven days. However, she had a day off four days before the incident, and had 18 hours off before the shift in question. The Union claims she worked 69 hours in the previous week. Haywood was a fill-in employee, so she worked irregular hours. She stated that it was hard for her to stay awake and alert during the early morning hours.

The CTA can be held responsible for injuries caused by its drivers. However, the CTA has some protections that are unique to it. The law that required litigants to file notice of a lawsuit with the CTA was repealed, helping to make the process more fair to those who have been injured. Anyone that would like to file a personal injury lawsuit against them must file a lawsuit within one year. Most accident victims have two years to file a suit, and sadly many wait to consult a Chicago accident lawyer thinking they have plenty of time, only to find there is nothing they can do. It is important for anyone injured in a CTA accident to contact a competent Chicago accident lawyer as soon as possible.

While the CTA is looked upon as being responsible, the union may actually bear the brunt of the blame. Haywood fell asleep at the controls in an incident prior to the accident, but she was only given a written warning. Due to union negotiations, that is all management was allowed to do. Things like failure to stay alert and driving by a stop are considered simple offenses. An employee receives a written warning for the first offense, and a written warning and a one day suspension for the second offense.

The CTA claims that Haywood requested the overtime because of the extra compensation paid for overnight shifts and overtime. They also claim that they were obligated to give her the requested overtime because of the way the union contracts were written.

Since the Chicago Transit Authority is a public carrier, it is required to adhere to the highest safety standards. This means that the carrier can be sued for injuries that were the result of failure to adhere to the proper guidelines, and for failing to act in the way of a careful and responsible operator. Failure to exercise proper caution or follow regulations is considered a breach of the carrier’s duty. However, the injured party still has to prove that they sustained injuries, and that the injuries were the result of the carrier’s breach of duty.

Many Chicago accident lawyers don’t want to take CTA cases anymore, because the CTA almost never settles out of court. They also take any statements they can from the injured party to present a compelling defense when the case goes to court. The Chicago Transit Authority buses have an average of 19 accidents a month. The rail line has an average of 2-3 accidents a month. It is important to note that this only takes into account serious accidents in which someone is taken to the hospital, or there is property damage over $25,000. They place about fourth or fifth nationwide in the amount of accidents they have when compared to other similar transportation systems. They have a team of lawyers working to keep them from paying claims. This makes it almost impossible for anyone injured to win their case without proper representation.