National Strategy Developed to Prevent Trespassing on Railroad Property

National Strategy Developed to Prevent Trespassing on Railroad Property

The Federal Railroad Administration delivered the document to Congress. It identifies the 10 counties with the most trespasser casualties, not including suicides, from November 2013 to October 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration has sent to Congress the first “National Strategy to Prevent Trespassing on Railroad Property,” a report examining factors that contribute to trespassing incidents on railroad property. It was issued in response to a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations request.

FRA examined trespasser casualties from November 2013 to October 2017 and identified the 10 counties in the United States where the most pedestrian trespasser casualties occurred, and they are located in just four states. The counties are Los Angeles, Calif.; Cook County, Ill.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Harris County, Texas; Broward, Fla.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Fresno, Calif.; Riverside, Calif.; Contra Costa, Calif.; and San Diego, Calif.

Excluding suicides, 4,242 pedestrians were killed or injured while trespassing on railroad property nationwide during that time period.

More people are struck and killed by trains each year while trespassing – illegally entering or remaining on a railroad right-of-way – than in motor vehicle collisions with trains at highway-rail grade crossings. Between 2012 and 2017, the annual number of trespass-related pedestrian fatalities increased 18 percent, from 725 people killed in 2012 to 855 in 2017, and in 2018, 324 pedestrian trespass fatalities had occurred by July 31, according to the agency, which added that the number of trespassing occurrences each year far exceeds the number of fatalities and injuries.

FRA established a team of experts on the problem in October 2017. The team analyzed the costs to railroads and society and found that trespass accidents during the five-year period from 2012 to 2016 cost society approximately $43 billion. The team found that 74 percent of all trespasser deaths and injuries during that four-year period occurred within 1,000 feet of a grade crossing.

The report shows that even when railroad trespass violations are reported to law enforcement, the violations are rarely prosecuted -- law enforcement focuses its resources on higher-priority issues, such as homicides, illegal drugs, and highway crashes. FRA also found that community-planning decisions (such as the location of bus stops in relation to safe crossing paths) might lead to trespassing.

“Almost every trespasser death or injury is preventable, and FRA is working to intensify our efforts,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “Now that we have examined current data on contributing factors of the problem, we are seeking to energize our state and local partners to implement solutions and save lives.”

The agency’s national strategy to prevent trespassing on railroad property includes four strategic focus areas: data gathering and analysis, community site visits, funding, and partnerships with stakeholders. According to FRA, data gathering and analysis of trespass incidents and close calls will allow it to target its resources to trespassing “hot spots.” Conducting community site visits will help FRA learn more about the specific local circumstances that contribute to trespassing and work with partners to help implement and evaluate targeted mitigation strategies. Requesting and providing funding will support community-based efforts to deter trespassing, while building partnerships with communities, law enforcement, railroads, and other organizations with a shared interest in saving lives will enable FRA to leverage available resources, expertise, and local knowledge to combat trespassing.

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