Vehicle-train and pedestrian-train collisions, deaths and injuries increased in 2010, according to preliminary statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration.
Officials at Operation Lifesaver Inc., the national nonprofit rail safety education organization, said that the improving economy may have contributed to the uptick.
“The statistics show that as America pulls out of the recession and people are driving more, we need to redouble our efforts to educate the public about taking unnecessary risks at highway-rail crossings, because any incident is one too many,” Operation Lifesaver President Helen Sramek said. “Another disturbing finding is the continued rise in pedestrian incidents on or near train tracks.”
The Federal Railroad Administration statistics indicate that there were 2,004 vehicle-train collisions in the U.S. in 2010, up 4.2 percent from the 1,924 incidents in 2009. Those 2010 collisions resulted in 260 deaths and 810 injuries. The crossing deaths were up 5.3 percent and the injuries were up 9.8 percent from the 247 deaths and 738 injuries in 2009.
The states with the most crossing collisions in 2010 were Texas, Illinois, California, Indiana and Louisiana.
U.S. Department of Transportation figures also show that vehicle miles traveled in 2010 (2,999,634, according to the Federal Highway Administration) were the third-highest ever, Sramek noted.
“With more people traveling on our roadways, there’s a greater chance for an incident to occur,” she said.
An additional 451 pedestrians were killed and 382 injured while trespassing on train tracks last year, versus 417 deaths and 343 injuries in 2009.
“Despite overall gains in rail safety in the past decade, these latest statistics show that Operation Lifesaver must continue its work to educate drivers and pedestrians about the dangers present around tracks and trains,” Sramek said.
In related news, a school bus driver last month drove over a grade crossing with no safety gates as a train approached. No one was injured in the incident, but the driver was fired and charged with a misdemeanor.