The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division recently hosted a rail safety summit in Chapel Hill. Attended by over one hundred law enforcement officers, public safety advocates and government officials, the goal of the summit was to try to come up with solutions to decrease the number of railroad accidents, particularly railroad crossing accidents, and make the state’s railroads safer for both drivers and pedestrians.
Already this year, there have been fifteen people killed in railroad related accidents in North Carolina. The total number of fatalities in 2012 was eighteen and the spike in fatalities has officials very concerned.
According to the director of the DOT, nine of the fatalities happened to people who were attempting to cross at a railroad right-of-way. The right-of-way is the land around and including the train tracks. It can take a mile or more before a train actually stops, unable to swerve to stop from hitting a person or object on the tracks.
There is a current $570 million improvement project for rails between Raleigh and Charlotte. The DOT says their first step is to identify the most dangerous crossings and to improve the signals or re-engineer the crossings completely as a way to help prevent railroad crossing accidents. There is also a proposal to eliminate twenty-three crossings currently available to cars.
Attendees of the summit also discussed education programs for the public. Some of the suggestions included adding a mandatory rail safety video to the driver’s ed program or instituting a class for trespassers, such as those DUI offenders must take.
We applaud the efforts of the DOT to address this dangerous problem of North Carolina railroad crossing accidents. However, one of the items not discussed at this summit was the liability of the train crew in these railroad crossing accidents. Issues such as excessive speed, when a horn or whistle must be blasted at a public crossing and the maintenance of trees and other vegetation around the crossing, are all possible contributors.
If you or a family member has been injured in a railroad crossing accident, you should consult a North Carolina railroad accident attorney. You may also find the guide our North Carolina railroad accident firm has written helpful. The guide explains federal laws that regulate railroads and how those laws may affect your claim.
Chapel Hill was the site of a recent NC DOT rail safety summit.