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Rail News: Communication and Signal

USDOT updates decade-old crossing safety plan


Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced it's releasing an updated action plan designed to reduce accidents and fatalities at the nation's 252,000 grade crossings, and prevent trespassing along the country's more than 145,000 miles of track.

Originally drafted in 1994, the Action Plan for Highway-Rail Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention was revised by a steering committee comprising representatives from railroads, rail labor unions, state and local agencies, Operation Lifesaver Inc., universities and public safety organizations.

The action plan focuses on enhancing partnerships among federal, state and rail industry organizations to establish responsibility for safety at private crossings; advancing engineering standards and promoting new technology; expanding educational outreach and public education efforts; increasing enforcement of existing traffic safety laws; closing unneeded crossings and limiting the construction of new ones; improving data quality, analysis, and targeted research; implementing emergency notification systems; issuing safety standards; and promoting best practices.

"This plan will improve grade crossing safety and discourage people from walking on railroad property, the leading causes of rail deaths in America," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta in a prepared statement.

Last year, people walking on or near tracks and crossings collisions accounted for 96 percent of rail-related deaths in the United States. More than 300 people were killed in crossing accidents and more than 500 died after being struck by a train. On average, a train strikes a person about every three hours, USDOT says.