May 28, 2019
For more than 45 years, the Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled statistics about injuries, illnesses and fatalities on the job in the U.S. According to a recent survey of the last 25 years of data, U.S. workers are getting injured less and... continue reading
When a major train accident or railroad crossing accident happens in the United States, it typically makes national headlines.In 2015, there was an explosive train crash involving a New York City regional train that struck an SUV at a railroad crossing, killing six and injuring 15 others. These types of devastating train accidents leave Americans wondering if the national rail system is safe. Generally, the answer is yes – America’s train system is safe. According to Operation Lifesaver, the number of fatal railroad-crossing accidents has dropped dramatically over the past 35 years, while the U.S. population has soared. The website reports there were 728 railroad crossing and train fatalities in 1981, and 265 in 2016. This reduction in fatalities is largely due to strong public campaigns warning drivers of the dangers of railroad crossings.
However, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), total railroad deaths, including train derailments, increased by 6% in 2013, from 840 to 891.Clearly, train and railroad-crossing accidents still occur, and many of them are preventable. Let’s take a closer look at what causes train accidents and how they can be prevented.
Train DerailmentsOn May 12, 2015, an Amtrak train was going nearly 100 mph on a sharp bend outside of Philadelphia when the train derailed. Eight people on the Amtrak train died and 200 were injured. The NTSB found that the train was going nearly 50 mph over the posted speed limit for that section of track. The investigation concluded that the train engineer took the curve too fast because he was distracted by his radio. The above case clearly was one of human error, and that train accident has led to many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against Amtrak and other entities.
But does human error cause most train accidents?Scientific American reports that of the 58,299 train accidents in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010, 54,889 of them were derailments. Fortunately, most trains in the United States carry mostly cargo, not passengers. Thus, few of these accidents lead to major injuries.
Still, these derailments do in some cases lead to personal injury and death. The Federal Railroad Administration has found that poor design, maintenance and construction leads to many train accident derailments. Specifically, broken rails and welding cause more than 15% of train derailments. It is important to note that railroad companies own the tracks on which their trains operate. If there is negligence in track or train maintenance, the railroad could be liable in a personal injury lawsuit. People who are injured in a train derailment or accident should talk to an experienced train accident attorney about a potential legal action.
Railroads with the most train accidents overall according to FRA data are:
- Union Pacific
- Norfolk Southern Railway Company
- Long Island Railroad.
Railroad CrossingsData shows that railroad-crossing accidents are declining as public awareness has increased over the years. Also, the number of gated crossings has increased by 111% over the last 30 years. But serious and deadly railroad-crossing accidents still happen, and most are preventable.
Grade-Crossing HazardsA grade hazard can lead to a railroad-crossing accident. When the road intersects the railroad track at the same level, this is called a grade crossing. Reforms have been made to make grade crossings safer, but they still can be very dangerous when the grade crossing is not level with the road. For the driver of the car to see the train, the crossing must be level with the roadway or at the same amount of grade. When the road goes up to meet the tracks, the line of sight of the driver can be upward and prevent him from seeing the train. In many rural areas, there are no crossing gates or hazard lights present at the crossings.
So, if the improper grading of the crossing leads to poor visibility for the driver, a serious or deadly train accident can happen.Railroads are reliable for keeping the grade crossing safe, according to the federal Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Thus, if you were hurt in a train accident at a railroad crossing that was not properly graded, you may be able to sue the railroad. But proving these types of claims is challenging and requires the help of an experienced train accident attorney.