Train derailments and accidents at train crossings generally have declined in the last 10 years, rail safety improvement still needs to get better, according to Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
In remarks she made to the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. this week, Feinberg had words of praise for the rail industry and its effort to boost safety.
She said that total train accidents have declined in the last 10 years, as have highway grade crossing crashes. Still, she noted that some of those numbers are starting to increase again.
She added that in the last year, the number of crashes at railroad
crossings nationally is up 9%, and the number of deaths at such crossings are up 16%.
There was a fatal crash between a New York Metro North Train and an SUV at a crossing in Valhalla NY just a few weeks ago that killed six. Then, last week, a Metrolink train slammed into a tractor trailer at a California crossing, which killed one. An Amtrak train also slammed into a large tractor trailer in North Carolina this week as well.
Now the FRA is looking more closely at train crossing safety and has called on all law enforcement to increase patrols at all train crossings. She said that drivers should be cited who attempt to cross the tracks with the safety gates down. The FRA will have more announcements to increase public awareness in the coming weeks about grade crossing safety.
We have seen many causes of accidents at railroad crossings over the years. Many of these accidents are due to driver error. If a car or truck driver attempts to beat the train to the crossing, the results can be disastrous. All vehicle drivers must remember that it takes as much as a mile for a train to come to a total stop.
That said, there are other causes of these incidents. Sometimes the train is poorly maintained, and in other cases, the train operator may be distracted or drowsy. Occasionally there are safety gate failures as well.
Anyone who has suffered an injury at a railroad crossing should speak to an experienced attorney to see if another party may be liable for the accident.