We hear about car, big truck, and motorcycle accidents every day. While these crashes are all important in their own way, railroad collisions are another serious problem.
When trains collide with other objects, they’re usually going about 125-150 mph. It’s hard to slow down something moving at that velocity, so the impact is significant when the railroad car collides with the other object.
Most people don’t consider train collisions to be a big deal since technology has reduced the frequency of accidents. However, because of things like negligence and human error, we still deal with them often.
With hundreds of thousands of miles of railroad tracks in the country, it’s to be expected that accidents happen. When they do, though, at the average speed and velocity trains travel, the result is often severe and/or fatal.
So what causes these significant collisions? Here are the top 10 reasons for railroad accidents in the United States.
The Causes of Train Collisions
On average, over 10,000 railroad accidents happen every year. That’s more than three per day, yet, these collisions rarely make news beyond the local area where they occur.
Thousands of people are injured, and hundreds die in these daily collisions. Those who are injured then deal with the fight of getting someone to cover their medical bills. Railroad accidents follow a unique set of laws. People filing lawsuits need a maritime accident attorney to help them get the compensation they deserve.
Sadly, most of these collisions were easily preventable, most commonly by these top ten causes:
- Negligence, such as a conductor or employee not paying attention to their job. Outdated technology could have improved the safety of the railway and prevented an accident. Improving technology means spending a lot of money, so many times, this is a delayed investment, turning into a negligent act.
- Human error happens when the person in charge makes a bad judgment call. It also occurs when they are inexperienced or operate under fatigue or the influence of an intoxicating substance.
- Mechanical failure due to faulty parts, including failure of rail signals or switches.
- “Beating the train” behaviors from pedestrians and drivers. Trying to be in a hurry and cross the tracks instead of waiting for the train to go by is a deadly mistake people make.
- Speeding trains that don’t slow down enough to make the turn or go too fast for the rail system they’re on. Many times, a train “derails” but gets back on track quickly. If it’s going too fast, though, the train doesn’t have time to catch back onto the rail and flies off the track, with terrifying results.
- Other types of derailments causing the train to miss a rail. Speed is one reason for a derailment, but mechanical failure, defective wheels, and broken rails can also be the problem.
- Tracks that are defective or have obstructions on them. Some people think it’s “funny” to leave objects on train tracks, not realizing the serious consequences that can occur. But other things end up on the tracks through natural causes, such as tree trunks blown onto the rails by a storm. Conductors try to be aware of these foreign objects early, but when it’s a small but dangerous item, like a rock, it can be hard to see in time to stop.
- Lack of adequate warning devices. Railroad systems aren’t the most common or lucrative types of transportation, so they rarely get upgrades. In fact, over 80% of railway crossings don’t have enough security devices to prevent crashes. Missing or broken lights and gates make the intersection unprotected. Collisions here are the result of things like distracted drivers not being aware of the train, intoxicated drivers, and minimal visibility.
- Cars that have stalled out on the track. Occasionally, someone trying to cross a railroad track will stall out. Instead of pushing the car off the track, the person will leave it stranded there. They are getting away safely but causing a collision that puts hundreds of others in danger.
- Purposeful crashes are thankfully rare, but they still occur. When someone wants to commit suicide, jumping in front of a train is one way to do so, but the result is often tragic for everyone else involved, as well.
Railroad systems must be upgraded in order to prevent the thousands of accidents that occur every year. In the meantime, victims of railroad collisions and their attorneys will continue to fight the system to make it safer for everyone.