SinceÂ the tragic Amtrak derailment, I've faced a dilemma when I board my train to and from work: Where is the safest place to sit? I think of theÂ eight victims who died,Â and how their choice of seat determined their fate.
I used to always headÂ for the first car, aÂ designated quiet area, so I could read or daydream in peace. After a Metro-NorthÂ train in New YorkÂ struck a passenger car at a crossingÂ in February, andÂ rails Â pierced the first car of the train,Â I movedÂ toward the middle of my commuter trainâgenerally a good place to be, as it turns out.
In a derailment like the one on May 12, all cars wereÂ affected.Â But ifÂ a broken rail is to blameÂ or a train strikes a car at a crossing, "Sitting in the middle of a car can be somewhat safer since it's more likely the forward part of the train and cars wouldÂ be dislodged from the track,"Â Bruce Becker, a consultant for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, tells Health.com.
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Window seat dwellers, take note: In case of a train crash in which windows shatter, passengers in the aisle seat would be less likely to be struckÂ by glass. And you might not want toÂ park yourself in the cafÃ© car, either, because of the tables fixed in place: "When there's a great release of momentum and then a train rapidly decelerates, people get moved around violently and quickly," saysÂ Becker, "so there's the opportunity of a blunt force injury."
As forÂ planes, don't grumble if you're assigned a seat in the rearâit's likely the safest spot, per an oft-cited analysis by Popular MechanicsÂ that examined commercial airlineÂ crashes. Another choice safety spot is seatingÂ within five rows or less of an exit,Â finds researchÂ from the University of Greenwich.Â Â Just avoid taking off your shoes, napping or putting on a videoÂ within the first three minutes or last eight minutes of flights (aka Plus Three/Minus Eight, Â in expert speak). That's when crashes are most likely to take place, notes Ben Sherwood in The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Lifeâand you want to be on alert for anything amiss.
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I know, generally, that I'm safe on the rails.Â As newscasters have repeatedly reassured Americans since the latest Amtrak accident, trainÂ travel isÂ far safer than traveling by carâditto for planes and buses.Â TheÂ passenger death rate in cars, vans, sports utility vehicles and light trucks was 0.49 per 100 million passenger miles in 2012 (the latest data available), versus 0.04 for buses, 0.02 for trains and 0.00 for airlines, per the nonprofit National Safety Council.
Still, I'm sticking with the middle of the train. Circumstance and luckÂ mayÂ ultimately determine yourÂ general risk of getting into any accident,Â but I'll gladly give up the peacefulness of a quiet car for a little more peace of mind.
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