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Hidden Dangers - 20% DISCOUNT

No room for complacency on crossings despite fewer accidents

  David Fry : Sunday January 30, 2000
Statistics released by the Federal

photo: cbs
. . . a train versus a vehicle is like a car versus a soda can
US Grade Crossing Fatalities
Crossing fatalities
Railroad Administration show that the number of people killed on the nation's road-rail crossings is declining.
The number of accidents at crossings, per million train miles has reduced from 5.71 to 4.81 since 1997. Last year, Gerry Hall, president of the rail safety groups Operation Lifesaver told the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine "Where we used to say a collision between a vehicle and a train occurred every 90 minutes, we can now say a collision between a train and a vehicle or person occurs every 100 minutes."

There can however be no room for complacency. These statistics still translate into 3,508 accidents in 1998 and in January - October 1999 there were 2,846 (Jan-Oct 1998 - 2,943). Statistics collected by Operation Lifesaver show that in many instances the fault for the accidents lies with the road user.

  • Nearly 50 percent occur at crossings equipped with flashing lights, barrier gates and warning bells.
  • Half the time, the driver either fails to stop at the gates or drives around them, thinking he or she can beat the train.
  • Most of these accidents occur within 25 miles of the driver's home.

In an article for APB News, writer Bill Sloan analyses the statistics on crossing accidents and shows that the winter months account for a disproportionately high number of incidents. In Blood on the Tracks at Railroad Crossings he also points to driver impatience or inattention as causes.

Efforts by railroad companies to educate the public seem to have little effect. In October last year, Claifornia's Metrolink staged a dramatic demonstartion of the effects of a train-car collision. Commenting on the effects of the collision, Detective James Martino said "The comparison of a train versus a vehicle is like a car versus a soda can".

Operation LifesaverOperation Lifesaver
Operation Lifesaver is an nonprofit, nationwide public education program designed to eliminate collisions, deaths, and injuries at highway-rail intersections and on railroad rights-of-way. It is sponsored cooperatively by a wide variety of partners, including federal, state and local government agencies, highway safety and transportation organizations, and the nation's railroads.

Join the discussion

Web sources:
Blood on the Tracks at Railroad Crossings
APB News 29/01/2000


Railroad Crossing Statistics
FRA Office of Safety Analysis

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This file last updated: Saturday, 05-Feb-2000 12:24:03 EST
Copyright © David Fry 1999