Continued from page 1

“It’s pretty straightforward. You had a guy going twice as fast as he should’ve on the phone leading to the crash which indicates that the rail line apparently doesn’t have a policy concerning the use of cellular devices while the train is in operation,” Mr. Goelz said.

Other recent accidents in Europe have put the focus on operator errors and on the lack of fully implemented safety systems.

On July 12, at least seven people died after a train derailed outside Paris and smashed into a station. On July 29, a driver was killed and dozens injured when two trains collided head-on in western Switzerland.

On Monday, the latest gruesome incident occurred as a train in Patna, India, plowed into a group of Hindu pilgrims at a crowded station in the eastern part of the country, killing at least 37 people, The Associated Press reported. A mob infuriated by the deaths beat the driver severely and set fire to coaches, officials said. The pilgrims thought they could force the train make an unscheduled stop to pick them up, and news reports said protesters blocked firefighters from the station in Dhamara Ghat, a small town in Bihar state, from attending to the wounded.

Those accidents could have been avoided with proper safeguards, said Lou Sanders, director of technical services at the American Public Transportation Association.

“The Europeans have a system which they call the European Train Control system. It’s a multilayered system that’s employed in some places but not in others. If it were fully deployed, some of their accidents would’ve been mitigated,” he said.

In the U.S., rail companies continue to put into place what is known as “positive train control,” which includes collision avoidance technology, speed restrictions under certain circumstances and other measures. The 2008 federal Railway Safety Improvement Act called for the system to be fully implemented by December 2015.

Much of the work has been completed, but an extension will be needed to achieve 100 percent compliance, Mr. Sanders said.

“Billions of dollars have been spent already and more is to come to deploy that system,” he said.

Even with those precautions, analysts say, accidents can never be eliminated entirely. The rail, airline and other transportation sectors have what is called the “swiss cheese” model, with holes in safety systems combined with operator error and other factors.

“Eventually the holes will line up just right and an error will come through. What you’re trying to do is eliminate as many of those holes as possible,” said Curtis Morgan, program manager and assistant research scientist at Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute.