Train Accidents Decline for Third Consecutive Year

The number of train accidents across the nation declined for the third consecutive year, according to preliminary 2007 data released yesterday by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, who said her department's "strong focus on improving rail safety is achieving significant results for three years running now." She noted there were 833 fewer train accidents, or a 24.6 percent reduction, when comparing the period from 2004 to 2007.

Peters attributed some of the safety gains to aggressive implementation of the Federal Railroad Administration's National Rail Safety Action Plan first launched in May 2005 and intended to focus on the most frequent, highest-risk causes of train accidents; optimize the use of data to target federal inspection and enforcement resources; and accelerate research initiatives aimed at the greatest potential safety risks.

"We are targeting our safety activities on specific problem areas," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman. He stressed that the two leading causes of train accidents--human errors and track--have declined 28.8 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively, since 2004. Comparing the preliminary full-year 2007 data to 2006, Peters said that last year, railroads had 406 fewer train accidents nationwide, or a 13.7 percent reduction. Leading the way among the 34 states that experienced reductions were California, which saw a drop of 46 accidents; Texas, which saw its fall by 45; and New York, which saw a reduction of 30.

Last year's highway-rail grade crossing incidents fell by 6.9 percent, and grade crossing fatalities decreased by 8.1 percent to 339. Trespass fatalities, the leading cause of rail-related deaths, decreased by 6.2 percent to 486. California and Texas lead the country in grade crossing fatalities and trespasser fatalities, according to the state-by-state charts available at www.fra.dot.gov.

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