Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Trespassing and crossing deaths cloud safety picture

In train operations, the railroads continue to post impressive safety gains. This year's first five months, according to preliminary counts released Tuesday by the Federal Railroad Administration, saw declines of 33.3% in collision, to 46 from 69; 22.8% in derailments, to 484 from 627; and 19.0% in yard accidents, to 374 from 463.

But while there were four employee fatalities in this year's January-May period, total rail-related deaths came to nearly 300. Highway-railroad grade crossing accidents caused 103 fatalities, one more than in the 2011 period, while trespassing fatalities climbed 15.6% to 178 from last year's 154.

The FRA's latest count came almost simultaneously with a statement from Operation Lifesaver Inc., based on four-month figures, lamenting the "troubling trend" in rail-related deaths. The new counts were slightly higher than those noted by Operation Lifesaver. The safety organization blamed the rising number of fatalities partly on such relatively new distractions as texting and headphones.