Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Railroads achieve solid new gains in safety

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The Federal Railroad Administration has released new numbers from 734 large and small railroads showing continued across-the-board improvement in rail safety in the United States.

In the nine months ended Sept. 30, total accidents/incidents were down 18.1% to 7,938 compared with the same period last year. Total fatalities—mostly caused by grade crossing collisions and trespassing—dropped 12.7% to 543. Non-fatal accidents/incidents dropped 18.0% to 5,539.

Train accidents caused three fatalities compared with 35 in the 2008 period, an 88.0% drop. There were 81 non-fatal train accidents compared with 303, a 73.3% drop. Accidents attributed to track, human factors, equipment, and signal causes fell 26.3%, 31.6%, 28.8%, and 7.9%, respectively. There were 13 employee fatalities compared with 20 last year, a 35% drop.

Accident/incident rates—which take into account exposure to risk, usually expressed in train-miles—also dropped. The train accident rate declined 15.2%, and the yard accident rate was down 12.7%.

These nine-month numbers, by category, were posted by the FRA on Nov. 30:

• Train accidents—5,539, down 18.0%.
• Collisions—104, down 27.8%.
• Derailments—979, down 29.0%.
• Yard accidents—736, down 30.4%.
• Crossing fatalities—181, down 18.8%.
• Trespassing fatalities—339, down 5.0%.