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10/1/2009



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Transportation fatalities down in '08, NTSB says; crossing deaths a distracted driver issue, OLI says


Last year, U.S. transportation fatalities totaled 39,397, down about 10 percent compared with 2007 deaths, according to preliminary figures released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board. Fatalities now have fallen in three-consecutive years.

Rail fatalities fell slightly from 794 to 777, with the vast majority of deaths caused by rail vehicle accidents. Highway fatalities — which account for more than 94 percent of all transportation deaths — dropped from 41,259 to 37,261, aviation fatalities increased slightly from 550 to 572 and marine deaths rose from 766 to 779.

Federal Railroad Administration statistics recently released by Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) show 2,397 highway-rail grade crossing collisions occurred last year, killing 286 and injuring more than 900. Seventy-eight of the collisions, which were caused by “highway user inattentiveness,” resulted in 14 deaths and 117 injuries, according to OLI. Inattentive drivers contribute to about 3 percent of all vehicle-train accidents at crossings and 20 percent of crossing collisions involve motor vehicles striking trains, the organization estimates.

“Distracted driving can lead to serious consequences at highway-rail grade crossings,” said OLI President Helen Sramek in a prepared statement. “Emergency responders and roadways can be tied up for hours, keeping responders from other community emergencies and drivers from their jobs and homes.”

In 2009’s first half, 34 crossing incidents that led to six fatalities and 52 injuries were caused by inattentive drivers, OLI said.


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