Grade Crossing Collision Fatalities Rose in 2014

Deaths in collisions between trains and motor vehicles at grade crossings as well as trains striking pedestrians on the tracks rose in 2014.

Operation Lifesaver said last week that preliminary figures from the Federal Railroad Administration show that crossing collisions increased by 8.8 percent to 2,280 in 2014, while crossing fatalities climbed 15.6 percent to 267.

Fatalities caused by people trespassing on railroad tracks and property surged 21.8 percent to 526 last year. Trespasser injuries dropped 2.8 percent to 419, while injuries that occurred at grade crossings fell 14.4 percent to 832.

OLI President and Chief Executive Officer Joyce Rose said that the numbers show that the rail trespass casualty rate — deaths and injuries per million train miles — is 1.23, which is the highest level in the past decade.

The highway rail incident rate — incidents per million train-miles — is 2.98, which is the highest since 2008.

“Historically, highway-rail grade crossing collisions have dropped greatly in recent decades,” Rose said. “While the number of people injured in crossing crashes and pedestrian-train incidents dropped in 2014, the statistics show that challenges remain in our mission to educate a busy, distracted public about the need for caution at train tracks.”

States with the most crossing collisions last year were Texas, Illinois, California, Indiana and Georgia. States with the most pedestrian-train casualties (deaths and injuries combined) in 2014 were California, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York.

“Operation Lifesaver, in partnership with major freight railroads, commuter and light rail systems, state and local law enforcement, and transportation agencies, will be expanding the campaign and developing new educational materials to encourage Americans to make safe decisions around tracks and trains,” Rose said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is hosting a forum on March 24-25 on the dangers of trespassing on railroad rights of way.

The event will feature speakers who have been seriously injured by trains, those whose communities have been affected, and railroad employee assistance program members whose train crews have struck people on railroad property.

An NTSB news release said that the forum will draw on the expertise of railroads, regulators and researchers to review the diversity of trespassing accidents and incidents and look at current and future prevention strategies.

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