Trains are one of the safest modes of transportation available. While a few high-profile accidents have happened in the last few years, trains operate constantly and are rarely involved in accidents. When they are, it's often at grade crossings with vehicles trying to go around crossing arms. State, federal and rail industry partners must work together to continue addressing safety concerns as passenger rail use increases.
Statistics show a decrease in train/motor vehicle collisions in the United States. Operation Lifesaver reports an 82% decline in collisions from a 1972 high of roughly 12,000 to approximately 2,200 in 2018. This is a result of safety improvements and education initiatives to encourage people to be safe around trains and avoid incidents. Operation Lifesaver and its local partners are committed to raising awareness and improving public safety on and around highway-rail grade crossings and tracks through public awareness and education while saving lives.
Positive Train Control
While train travel is already a safe transportation alternative, Amtrak and host railroads have taken steps to strengthen safety by implementing Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC is a safety technology that matches train speed to track conditions to provide an additional layer of safety. Should a train operator fail to take appropriate action according to the conditions, PTC can automatically control the train speeds or stop the train to avoid a potential collision. Amtrak is one of the leading installers of PTC with the technology being used throughout the national network. Amtrak has great resources on Positive Train Control and is now in the process of implementing the technology over several corridors owned by BNSF.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Railway Administration have invested over $11 million in crossing safety improvements along the TCMC corridor with an additional $11.6 million in additional crossing safety improvements being studied. The FRA promotes and regulates safety of the railroad industry around the country by performing regulation and inspection duties. View the FRA Safety Fact Sheet.
More Trains, Fewer Accidents
Ridership has seen increases in recent years and there are more freight trains hauling a variety of items across tracks. As more passenger rail options are offered, more trips can be deferred from highways. The Rail Passenger Association found that shifting just 1% of car traffic to rails in the U.S. would save 200 lives each year (equal to $1.88 billion per year in economic value.) The National Transportation Safety Board says that more than 90 percent of transportation deaths are roadway deaths.
Planned improvements to the TCMC corridor would continue to strengthen an already safe mode of transportation. Studies and inspections will continue efforts to ensure that additional trains on the existing corridor would meet the same safety standards. Most fatalities with trains involve trespassing, drivers crossing tracks, or other accidents involving trains. The best way to avoid these incidents is always being aware of train tracks and knowing that a train could be coming. Operation Lifesaver has tips for drivers, pedestrians, bikers and more.
For more information, visit seetracksthinktrain.org