There are approximately 600 railroads, hundreds of thousands of miles of tracks, and over 209,000 railroad crossings in the United States, and according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 2016 was ranks second in the least number of train-automobile accidents, down from the highest in 1981.
In 2016, there were 2,025 collisions, 798 injuries, and 265 deaths from these train and motor vehicle accidents. In contrast to these lower numbers, in 1981, 9,461 collisions, 3,293 injuries, and 728 fatalities.
In addition to compiling and analyzing data and statistics, the FRA is responsible for helping to create, oversee and promote all railroad safety regulations.
Train accidents, crashes, and derailments continue to plague the United States. It’s no contest if a train strikes a motor vehicle or a pedestrian, the train has a lot more mass and momentum and it will win the fight.
There are so many reasons why these motor vehicle and train accidents occur, and most of these incidents take place and public and private railway crossings. When cars try to race across the tracks to “beat” the trains, they are asking for trouble.
The most common causes of train accidents are:
- Accidents at unprotected railroad crossings
- Incidents in which drivers fail to adhere to posted signage or safety bars/lights at protected railway crossings
- Mechanical failure
- Human error
- Distracted pedestrians
- Crashes with other trains and vehicles
- Problems with the track itself
- Stalled cars on tracks/blockages
- Suicides and suicide attempts
Following all safety protocols, rules, and regulations is extremely important when it comes to train operation, or the operation of a motor vehicle on or near railroad tracks. If you or a loved one has been injured or even killed in a railroad accident, you may deserve compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
An experienced train accident attorney is the best person to be on your side, helping you deal with the FRA, the police, the insurance companies, and even the media.
But the best possible scenario is never needing a railway lawyer in the first place. As a driver, you have an obligation to yourself and the other vehicles on the road to maintain the law, follow rules, and not put yourself or anyone else in unnecessary danger.
Here are top tips for preventing railroad accidents:
- Do not walk or play on the train tracks.
- Never, ever assume a track is not in use. Treat all railroad tracks as dangerous and never linger.
- Never stop on a railroad track for any reason whatsoever.
- Never drive around lowered gates. If it appears the gate is stuck, find another route or call the 1-800 number that is located at the crossing. Follow ALL posted signs at train crossings, and use common sense. If you see someone going around the lowered gates, call the police immediately. Driving around these gates is very illegal.
- Never try to race or “beat” an oncoming train. You have a lot more to lose than the train does and it is much larger!
- Always look both ways before crossing any track.
- If your vehicle gets stuck on any train tracks, remove yourself from the vehicle immediately and call for help. Never ever assume you can wait a few more minutes.
- Trains are wider than the track they are on, meaning that you should not even be within a few FEET of train tracks when a train is coming, as you can get seriously injured.
- Do not enter a train tunnel or cross a trestle where you can get trapped if/when a train enters. You should not be on foot near or in these anyway.
- Lift your trailer jacks in the up position so your truck does not get stuck on train tracks.
- I can take a train traveling 55 mph up to ONE MILE to come to a complete stop. They are unable to perform quick stops, even when there are obstacles in their way, such as your vehicle.
A major problem is when drivers ignore or do not see lowered gates or posted signs at railway crossings. When a car ignores these warnings and gets stuck on the tracks, the result is horrifying. And even though the FRA reports that commuter and freight train accidents were down over 58% in 2014 as compared to 2004, a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S.
On February 3, 2015, an SUV stopped on train tracks in Valhalla, NY after a crossing gate came down on the top of the vehicle. The driver stopped on the tracks to get out and check her roof for damage, got back in the car and was struck by a Metro-North train before clearing the tracks. There were six fatalities and 12 people hospitalized. The very next day, the commuter “T” train struck a tractor-trailer outside of Boston.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t any perfect solution for solving the issue of train and motor vehicle collisions. Cameras and sensors are only so sensitive and have limitations, especially when it comes to extreme weather, or even telling the difference between a small vehicle and a large animal. In addition, false alarms and warnings would slow down and delay the rail system as a whole.
Removing all intersections of railways and roadways would certainly be ideal, but with current infrastructure, road and bridge systems in place, that is just not a possibility. Staying alert and aware of your surroundings, train tracks, and all signs is your best bet at preventing train accidents.
If you or a loved one has been involved in or a victim of a railway accident involving a motor vehicle, please reach out to the Law Offices of Ronemus & Vilensky for help. We have been working for you on train accidents in the New York area for over two decades and can put all of our efforts and knowledge into getting you to compensation and closure you deserve.