Safest Place to Sit on a Train?

At least two of the passengers killed in this week's Amtrak crash in Philadelphia were sitting in the first two cars — and some experts believe that's the worst place to be in the event of an accident. Although riders have been killed in all sections of trains involved in collisions or derailments, rail safety lawyer Larry Mann always tells his wife to head for the middle. "The safest spot in a train, during an accident, is the center of the train," said Mann, who was the principal author of the Federal Railway Safety Act in 1970. All five fatalities on a Metro-North commuter train that hit an SUV in Valhalla, New York, three months ago were in the first car. And the four people killed in a high-speed Metro-North derailment in the Bronx in 2013 had also been sitting in the front end, officials said at the time. The National Transportation Safety Board does not release comprehensive data on where victims were sitting during fatal train accidents, though some details are available in individual investigative reports. But Mann says that of the track tragedies he has personally analyzed, "persons involved in passenger train accidents usually survive if they were in the middle of the train."