Even a seemingly "minor" passenger or freight train accident can have severe and tragic consequences, based on the sheer size and speed of today's trains. And unfortunately, train accidents still occur in the U.S. at an all-too-frequent rate.
The latest statistics available from the Federal Railroad Administration show that more than 13,000 rail accidents happen annually in the U.S., resulting in more than 8,000 injuries and 850 fatalities.
From derailments and train-on-train collisions that make major national headlines to gruesome train-automobile collisions at railroad crossings, train accidents can result in serious personal injury, and even death, to those on board and those living, working, driving or walking nearby.
Train Accidents: Common Causes
A large majority of train accidents can be traced back to some form of negligence or wrongdoing on the part of at least one party involved. A few of the most common causes of train accidents include:
• Obstructed vision at a railroad crossing
• Driver distraction or fatigue (either by train operator or passenger car driver)
• Mechanical problems, such as brake failure, on a train
• Train equipment defects
• Railroad track defects or maintenance problems (over 30 percent of all train accidents can be tied to this cause)
• Driver/operator error (nearly 40 percent of all train accidents are caused by this type of human error)
• Train operator driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs
• Passenger car driver use of alcohol/drugs
• Debris allowed to remain on the railroad tracks
• Trespassing on railroad rights-of-way (resulting in a pedestrian-train collision)
• Malfunctioning crossing signals
Train Accidents: Focus on Highway-Railroad Crossings
Anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 train collisions occur each year in the U.S. Nearly 500 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries annually are associated with these accidents.
Train Accidents: Type of Injuries
Injuries that result from train accidents can be disastrous, changing an individual's life forever. Some of the most common large-scale injuries associated with train accidents include:
• Traumatic brain injury
• Spinal cord injury
• Burn injury
• Bone and muscle injury
• Organ damage