Railroad technology has not been updated in the last 70 years, and that likely has a bearing on the number of railroad crossing accidents today.
A recent, well-publicized train-truck collision in Virginia is a reminder of how dangerous railroad crossings can be: They are the scene of more accidents than you think.
Two different results
On Jan. 25, 2017, an Amtrak passenger train carrying 95 passengers struck a tanker truck at a railroad crossing in Dumfries, Virginia. No one suffered serious injuries in the crash, and after a 90-minute delay, the train, which was running from Norfolk to New York City, resumed its trip. However, the occupants of a garbage truck that an Amtrak train struck near Crozet, Virginia, on Jan. 31, 2018, were not so lucky. One man died at the scene, and two others were badly injured. A personal injury attorney experienced with handling injury cases for railroad workers and passengers will tell you that railroad crossing incidents happen for many reasons. Driver or pedestrian negligence does not always cause them.
Railroad safety data
You may be surprised to know that a train derailment or collision occurs every 90 minutes somewhere in the country. According to figures compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, there were 103 casualties from Amtrak railroad crossing accidents in 2017. Casualties associated with CSX freight trains numbered 143 that year and Union Pacific logged 115. These topped the list, but there were many other such accidents that resulted in fatalities.
The FRA reports that more than 80 percent of all railroad crossings do not have adequate warning signals in place. Was there a problem with the signaling devices at the site of the Crozet, Virginia, crash? The impact with the train threw the garbage truck onto the property of a man who lives nearby. He told reporters that the crossing arms have not been working properly.
While the investigation of the collision is underway and details are not yet known, defective warning devices will certainly be among the possible causes of the crash that investigators will consider. The Crozet crash illustrates the importance of caution for anyone approaching a railroad crossing.