Train Accidents Less Common Than Car Accidents But More Serious

people investigating aftermath of serious train accident

Here are some additional train accident statistics:

  • According to the Federal Railroad Administration, more than 3,000 train accidents occur leading to death, injury and property damage in the US every year.
  • Every two hours there’s a train accident in the US.  Almost all of these accidents involve some type of property damage—and in some cases, involve injury and death.
  • Many train accident claims are subject to a host of  laws and legal standards, often involving several parties pointing the finger at negligence.
  • Half of all railroad accidents occur at crossings that are inadequately protected. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, more than 80% of railroad crossings don’t have sufficient warning signals and devices.

If you think about these statistics however, they are not that surprising given the sheer size of freight and passenger trains and the speeds at which they travel.  An average train weighs more than 200 tons, but many may weigh much more. With the increased weight comes increased potential for accidents.  For example, it typically takes a train traveling 55 miles per hour at least a mile to come to a complete stop.  If a car is stalled on the tracks, a train may not be able to stop in time. These types of train accidents are often deadly.

Car and Train Accidents in California

In 2014, there were nearly 45 train collisions in California, which resulted in 538 deaths.  These accidents are most likely to occur at locations where train tracks intersect highways or local roads and do not have gates, flashing lights, traffic signals or other warnings to alert drivers of a train’s approach.

Since the new millennium, train accidents across the country have been decreasing due to new technology.  However the most common cause of railroad accidents are at crossings, when the train collides with a motor vehicle.  Sadly, many motorists try to beat trains through the crossing and speed into the intersection, barely sneaking under the crossing bar only to collide with the oncoming train. Statistics reveal that a crossing accident occurs every 90 minutes in the United States.

Sacramento Train Collision Tragedy

A tragic example of this scenario occurred in December, 2012, when a visual arts teacher was fatally hit by a train while she was taking photos near the tracks in East Sacramento.

Pedestrian and Train Accidents

People often think it is safe to walk or bike along train tracks and use the tracks as a route to places where it is more difficult for a vehicle to reach.  People also underestimate a train’s power, walk too close to the tracks and get pulled underneath a train when it goes by.  Casualties occur when a train operator fails to signal the train’s approach or if the conductor fails to observe the person standing too close to the track.

 Passenger on a Train Accidents

Passenger trains are common carriers, which means that they accept money in exchange for transporting passengers. As common carriers, trains owe a higher duty of care to their passengers to protect them from harm while using their services. This duty extends to the train deck or waiting area where passengers board and exit the train as well as to the passenger compartments on the train.

If a passenger is hurt while traveling on the train and his or her injury is caused by the negligence of the train engineer, conductor or other employee or a defective condition on the train itself, the passenger should contact a personal injury accident attorney to determine if compensation makes sense.

An Accident Attorney Knows These Laws

Freight and passenger trains are largely regulated by federal law, but there are some state and local laws that apply to them as well. When train operators do not follow these rules, people often get hurt.

  • A train may only travel at certain, designated speeds. Federal law sets the maximum speed based on many different factors, including the type of train and the class of track it’s traveling on.
  • Trains may be required to maintain a lower speed when traveling through city limits or approaching highway intersections known to be dangerous. When conductors fail to follow these guidelines, train accidents are more likely and more deadly.
  • Warning signals are required. Even though trains have the right-of-way at intersections, they must signal their approach at crossings with highways. These warnings may include whistles, bells, flashing lights or a combination of all three. The warning must be given in a reasonable amount of time to warn potential motorists or pedestrians in the area of the train’s approach. When conductors fail to follow these guidelines, train accidents occur.
  • Appropriate lighting is required if a train is traveling at night, it must use proper lights to make it visible to those who are on look-out at railway crossings.

While a train can be a wonderful way to travel and serve many commercial purposes, they can also be very dangerous.  If you or someone you know has been injured by or on a train, you should consult an accident attorney who specializes in train collisions.

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