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Rail News: Safety

FRA data shows rail industry had safest-ever year in 2012; NTSB data shows transportation deaths declined in 2011


Last year was the safest year in the rail industry's history based on performance measures tracked by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the United Transportation Union (UTU) reported on its website Friday.

For the fifth fiscal year in a row, the industry posted improvements for all six safety performance measures monitored by the FRA:  the rate of grade crossing incidents, human factor-caused train accidents, track-caused accidents, equipment-caused accidents, signal and miscellaneous train accidents, and non-accidental rail hazardous material releases.

The industry has also met the U.S. Department of Transportation’s safety performance goal for rate of rail-related accidents and incidents, the UTU reported.

"This year, we will continue to take proactive measures to prevent accidents and incidents by aggressively advancing Risk Reduction and System Safety Programs," said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, according to the UTU report. "We will also stay focused on our collaborative effort with industry and labor to eliminate electronic device distraction. Together, we can make 2013 even safer."

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that the total number of U.S. transportation fatalities declined about 2 percent in 2011 to 34,434 versus 2010, according to preliminary figures.

Total rail fatalities fell from 823 in 2010 to 759 in 2011. Trespasser and non-trespasser deaths dropped from 542 to 499, and light-, heavy- and commuter-rail fatalities declined from 255 to 230.

Grade crossing deaths fell from 261 in 2010 to 251 in 2011, but the deaths aren't counted by the NTSB as a separate category, and instead are included in the rail and highway categories.

"Transportation accidents remain one of the nation's leading causes of death," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman in a prepared statement. "We can do better, which is why the NTSB shines a light on key safety issues each year through the 'Most Wanted List' of transportation safety improvements."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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