WASHINGTON — According to preliminary statistics released this month by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), total vehicle-train collisions at highway-rail grade crossings fell 13.8 percent, from 2,752 in 2007 to 2,373 in 2008.
Another 286 fatalities involving trains and a car or truck occurred last year, 14.6 percent below 2007, and 913 injuries, a decrease of 12.9 percent from 2007, according to the FRA.
“We are heartened by these safety gains, as our goal is to prevent casualties at highway-rail grade crossings,” said Operation Lifesaver, Inc. President Helen M. Sramek. “As part of our ongoing efforts, Operation Lifesaver has developed new public service announcements (PSAs) and informational videos to provide lifesaving tips to drivers and pedestrians.
“Last summer’s gas prices and a weakening economy may have contributed to an overall reduction in highway fatalities, including those at crossings,” Sramek noted. “However, the ongoing safety partnership among federal, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, traffic safety organizations and rail companies also contributed to the national decline in crossing crashes and casualties,” she said. “Operation Lifesaver’s safety education programs are an integral part of this partnership,” she stated.
Results for pedestrian-train incidents were mixed last year, Sramek pointed out. Although pedestrian-train fatalities showed a small drop of 2.6 percent, to 458 from 470 in 2007, the number of pedestrians injured while on the tracks rose 4.9 percent, from 406 in 2007 to 426 in 2008. Since 1997, more pedestrians have died each year while on or near train tracks than motorists killed in highway-rail crossing collisions.