Sustained public education efforts, engineering improvements and law enforcement programs have contributed to a nationwide reduction in vehicle-train collisions and pedestrian-train deaths and injuries in 2011, according to Operation Lifesaver, Inc.
The national nonprofit rail safety education organization cited preliminary 2011 Federal Railroad Administration statistics showing that highway-rail crossing collisions dropped three percent; fatalities and injuries to pedestrians trespassing on train tracks showed improvement from their 2010 levels. Deaths and injuries resulting from vehicle-train collisions, however, rose in 2011.
“Collisions between vehicles and trains at railroad crossings were lower last year, which is encouraging, but we are concerned with the rise in crossing deaths and injuries from these incidents,” said Operation Lifesaver President Helen Sramek.
States with the most crossing collisions in 2011 were Texas, Indiana, California, Louisiana and Illinois. States with the most pedestrian-train casualties (deaths and injuries combined) in 2011 were California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New York.
On the improvement in pedestrian-train statistics, Sramek said, “Public awareness campaigns to warn pedestrians about the dangers of walking on or near train tracks may be making a difference.”
The FRA statistics indicate that there were 1,956 vehicle-train collisions in the U.S. in 2011 compared to 2,017 incidents in 2010; those collisions resulted in 262 deaths (up 2.3 percent from 2010) and 964 injuries (up 12.9 percent). There were 428 trespass-related pedestrian deaths last year (down 1.4 percent) and 346 trespass injuries (down 10.8 percent).
“Even with these safety gains, about every three hours in the U.S. a person or vehicle is hit by a train,” said Sramek. “Operation Lifesaver, in partnership with major freight railroads, commuter and light-rail systems, state and local law enforcement and transportation agencies, will continue to encourage Americans to make safe decisions around tracks and trains,” she said.