37 States Experience Fewer Train Accidents During First Six Months of 2006

WASHINGTON – Thirty-seven states experienced fewer train derailments and collisions during the first half of 2006 as compared to the same period last year Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman announced earlier this month.

Boardman also said that railroads were doing a better job focusing on safety performance.

A review of the preliminary statistics compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for January through June 2006 reveals that railroads had 262 fewer train accidents, or a 16.1 percent reduction, when compared to the first half of 2005, Boardman said. Specifically, the number of derailments decreased by 13.6 percent and train-to-train collisions fell 34.1 percent. A total of 16 states saw a decrease of 10 or more train accidents, including Texas (28), Ohio (14), New Jersey (11), and California (10), Boardman said.

“It is encouraging that railroads are making improvements in many areas of rail safety,” Boardman said. “But more needs to be done to make our trains and grade crossings truly safe.”

The data shows that train accidents caused by human error—the leading cause of all train accidents–declined 22.9 percent, Boardman said. Train accidents caused by track issues decreased 13.4 percent, and those caused by equipment failure and signal problems fell by 13 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively.

In addition, the number of highway-rail grade crossing collisions was unchanged, but grade crossing fatalities rose by 5.8 percent. Trespass fatality numbers are also unchanged from the same period in 2005.

Boardman said that aggressive implementation of FRA’s National Rail Safety Action Plan was a contributing factor in the overall improvement in railroad safety. The Action Plan targets the most frequent, highest-risk causes of train accidents; increases the use of data to focus the FRA’s inspection and enforcement resources; and accelerates research and development activities that have the potential to mitigate the largest risks.