MRT train collision: Scientifically, where is the safest place to sit in a train?

In light of the recent MRT train collision in Singapore (Joo Koon), where at least 23 passengers were injured, it may be of interest to consider scientifically, where is the safest place to sit/stand in a train?

We sincerely hope the 23 injured passengers are fine and will recover quickly.

Summary:

  • Most safe position is middle of the train.
  • If you are standing, face backwards in opposite direction of the train’s motion, with your back leaned against a solid support.

According to this article on Huffington Post, scientifically the safest place is the middle of the train.

On a passenger train, your safest bet just may be to sit in the middle cars, or one car behind the middle. After all, most collisions happen at the front or rear of a train, and the types of issues that cause derailments, such as broken rails or welds, tend to occur near the front of the train, according to findings cited by Live Science.

It is quite common sense actually, most collisions happen at the front or rear; it is highly unlikely that the collision happen in the middle given the configuration of the tracks. Also, the front/back will absorb most of the impact of the collision.

Also, rear facing seats are the most safe (but they are not present in Singapore MRT).

In other words, “it comes down to basic physics,” as Placencia said. “When something happens, most of the time you have a problem when a train has to stop quickly… If I’m in a forward-facing seat, then I’m going to be pushed out of my seat. But if I’m rearward-facing, what happens is, I would be pushed back into my seat.”

So the next best thing is if you are standing, stand leaning against a support (e.g. the panel near the doors or the metal pole) facing in the opposite direction of the train motion. So that if the train brakes suddenly, you are pushed back onto the support instead of falling down.

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