WASHINGTON – The number of overall train crashes and derailments declined in 2005, according to the latest statistics compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Preliminary full year data comparing 2005 with 2004 shows that overall train accidents decreased 7.9 percent, including an 8.4 percent reduction in the number of derailments, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. In addition, the total number of highway-rail grade crossing fatalities declined 3.5 percent and the grade crossing collision rate reached an all-time record low of 3.81 per million train-miles, he said.
“Railroads are making progress, but we still have miles to go with our safety program,” Mineta said.
The preliminary data also reveals that human-factor caused train accidents—the leading cause of all train accidents—decreased 12.8 percent last year, he said. The rail employee on duty injury rate also dropped 12.7 percent while train-to-train collisions increased 8.4 percent, Mineta added. In addition, trespassing remains the largest single cause of rail-related fatalities accounting for 53.7 percent of the total.
To help further drive railroad safety performance in the right direction, Secretary Mineta launched a National Rail Safety Action Plan in May 2005 to target the most frequent and highest risk causes of train accidents. Many elements of the plan have been implemented including pilot projects to test technology to identify small cracks in rail joints, monitor track switch positions in non-signaled or dark territory, and provide timely hazardous materials information to emergency responders.
In 2006, Mineta said federal inspectors will begin to study data to identify potential problem areas that need more attention before an accident occurs, and FRA will launch two new automated track inspection vehicles, tripling the number of track miles inspected annually by FRA. In addition, a proposed federal rule to reduce the most common human errors that lead to train accidents will be issued, Mineta added.