Railroad crossing accidents are a deadly problem in the United States. The number of fatalities and injuries on the rails is rising rapidly. There is a need for increased awareness and vigilance for both pedestrians and motorists.
Railroad Accidents in the United States
From 2014 to 2018, there were 10,752 railroad crossing accidents in the United States. 11.7% of these events resulted in a fatality, and 25.8% resulted in a personal injury. In 1% of accidents, both a fatality and injury were recorded. Surprisingly, a total of 61.5% of incidents did not result in either a fatality or injury.
During the period studied, there were 862 incidents involving pedestrians. Of these, 65.4% resulted in a fatality and 31.9% resulted in a personal injury. This makes pedestrian-involved accidents the deadliest type of train accident recorded.
Motor vehicles were far more likely to be involved in railroad crossing accidents. In all, there were 4,796 such events between 2014 and 2018. Of these, 6.9% resulted in a fatality, and 28.6% resulted in a personal injury. During the five year period, there were 1,754 incidents involving tractor-trailers. Of these, 3.1% resulted in a fatality, and 14.6% resulted in a serious injury.
While there were only 38 incidents involving motorcycles, 28.9% of these resulted in fatalities, and 44.7% resulted in severe injuries. Similar to pedestrian-involved accidents, motorcyclists have little protection when a train strikes.
Altogether, one in every ten accidents at railroad crossings resulted in a fatality while one in every four resulted in serious injury. The most common reason cited in these accidents was not stopping at crossings. This was a factor in 34.3% of all accidents, and 9% of fatality accidents. This was followed by vehicles or pedestrians stopped on the crossing which was cited in 24.7% of accidents, and 5.6% of fatal accidents. Finally, vehicles or pedestrians going around safety gates was a factor in 14.3% of accidents, and 26.6% of fatal injury crashes. Further, going around the gates was the leading cause of fatal events for pedestrians.
Staying Safe on the Rails
Pedestrians and motorists should exercise extreme caution when approaching a railway crossing. Adhering to posted signs, obeying traffic signals, and not skirting safety gates goes a long way towards preventing an accident. Pedestrians and motorists should always slow down and look both ways before crossing even when it appears the coast is clear.