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Train and crossing accidents drop, trespasser and crossing fatalities rise in 2006, FRA says


Preliminary Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety data shows U.S. railroads did a good job of preventing train and grade crossing accidents, but a poor job of avoiding trespasser and crossing fatalities last year.

In 2006, U.S. railroads reported 2,834 train accidents, 12.4 percent or 402 fewer than in 2005 — the second-straight year accidents declined. Thirty-six states registered fewer train accidents on year-over-year basis.

Train accidents caused by human error — the leading cause of accidents — decreased 20.2 percent compared with 2005, the FRA said. Accidents caused by track issues, equipment failures and signal problems declined 5.8 percent, 8.2 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the number of derailments dropped 8.3 percent, collisions between trains plummeted 27.1 percent and highway-rail grade crossing collisions fell 5 percent compared with 2005.

However, crossing fatalities increased 1.4 percent to 362 and trespasser fatalities — the No. 1 cause of all rail-related deaths — rose 14.5 percent to 530.

To boost rail safety in 2007, the FRA plans to add two new automated track inspection vehicles to its fleet and triple the number of track-miles inspected each year; issue a final rule to address the most common human factor causes of train accidents, such as misaligned track switches; and complete several crossing safety and trespass prevention initiatives.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/8/2007