As reliance on railroads and trains for transporting goods increases there comes a corresponding increase in railroad traffic that equates to an increased probability of accidents, derailments and crashes with vehicles crossing railroad crossings. Given the thousands of miles rails cars have to travel, it should not be surprising that train accidents happen.

Our Minnesota residents will find it helpful to learn that to combat and mitigate the potential devastation and loss of life that can be caused when railroad accidents occur, Operation Lifesaver was launched in early 1970’s. It is a public awareness initiative to help make the general populations at large of the hazards railroad crossing present. Before Operation Lifesaver there were about 12,000 train and automobile collisions that occurred annually.

According to latest statistics gleaned from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which are available for 2011, that number has shrunk considerably from 12,000 annual collisions to about 1600. That’s over an 80 percent decrease. Though the numbers are encouraging there’s still a lot of room for improvement since according to the FRA there are more human deaths caused by railroad-highway crashes each year than those caused by commercial airline crashes. Such collisions are devastating since a train colliding with a vehicle is similar to car crashing a 12 ounce soda can.

Furthermore, the FRA estimates indicate that over 210 people lost their lives and nearly 850 suffered serious injuries at railroad crossings. It’s important to be attentive and have complete situational awareness when driving across railroad crossings, as that is where most vehicle-train collisions occur. Crossing railroads during the daytime may give automotive drivers a false sense of security and cause them to be more complacent. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all crossing collisions happen during daylight hours when trains should be most visible.

Of course, sometimes a vehicle-rail crash is due to the negligence of the operator of the train, despite the victim taking every possible safety precaution. Those injured in vehicle railroad collisions may find it helpful to consult with a personal injury law firm familiar with railroad accidents. It is important that all legal avenues of recovery are considered, so that the victim can pursue compensation if possible.

Source: Minnesota Safety Council, “Minnesota Operating Lifesaver,” Accessed Sept. 14, 2015