34 States Have Fewer Train Accidents During First Six Months of 2007; Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Collisions and Fatalities Show Significant Declines

WASHINGTON — Railroad safety continued to improve significantly during the first half of 2007 as 34 states experienced fewer train derailments and collisions as compared to the same period last year, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman announced.

A review of the preliminary statistics compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for January through June 2007 reveals that railroads had 246 fewer train accidents, or a 16.8 percent reduction, when compared to the first six months of 2006, Boardman said. In addition, highway-rail grade crossing safety improved as collisions between motor vehicles and trains fell by 122, or 8.5 percent; and grade crossing fatalities decreased by 21, or 11.5 percent.

“We are making real progress when it comes to improving safety on the nation’s rail system,” Boardman said, noting that full-year data for 2006 showed it to be one of safest years on record. “To continue this success, railroads must step up their efforts to ensure trains, tracks, and grade crossings are even safer,” he said.

Boardman explained that the train accident rate decreased by 15.5 percent to just 3.07 per million train miles during the first half of 2007 even with a slight decline in the overall number of train miles traveled. Specifically, derailments went down by 14.3 percent and train-to-train collisions fell 12.1 percent. A total of 11 states saw a decrease of 12 or more train accidents, including Texas (-49), California (-31), Pennsylvania (-20), New York (-18), Oregon (-16), Montana (-15), Maryland (-14), Ohio (-14), Kansas (-13), Alabama (-13), and Wyoming (-12), he added.

The preliminary data shows that the two leading causes of train accidents—human error and track issues—declined 13.9 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively. Incidents caused by equipment failure fell by 10.3 percent and by signal problems declined by 37.0 percent. In addition, trespass fatalities fell by 5.9 percent, Boardman reported.

Boardman said that aggressive implementation of FRA’s National Rail Safety Action Plan, launched in 2005, 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

A state-by-state list comparing train accident and grade crossing safety data from the first six-months of 2007 to the first six-months of 2006 can be found at www.fra.dot.gov.

— Special to Railfanning.org News Wire