With 693 large and small U. S. railroads reporting, the first quarter of 2009 saw double- and triple-digit improvements in safety, according to statistics posted on the Federal Railroad Administration's website May 29.
Train accidents were down 30.6% to 450 from the 648 reported in the January-March period last year. Collisions declined 2% to 39, and derailments were off 32.5% to 318.
Track causes were cited in 137 train accidents, down 38% from last year; human factors for 149, a decline of 33.2%; and signal causes for 13, down 7.1%. Miscellaneous causes were blamed for 74 accidents, down 28.2%.
Total fatalities, mostly caused by grade crossing accidents and trespassing, declined 1.3% to 350. Crossing fatalities were down 2% to 49, and trespassing deaths were up 3.3% to 94. There were seven employee fatalities compared with six last year.
Accidents rates, which take into consideration the exposure factor (total traffic), were also down in significant categories: The train accident rate declined 19.9%; the yard accident rate dropped 20.5%; and the total accident/incident rate was down 9.98%.