Pedestrian railroad safety in the United States

Pedestrian railroad safety is concerned with the protection of life through regulation, management and technology development of all forms of rail transportation. In the United States there are some 180,000 miles of track.[1] Pedestrian railroad accidents are the leading cause of death on railways. More than 7,200 pedestrians have been killed by trains in the United States since 1997.

Train-pedestrian fatalities edit

Pedestrian railroad accidents are the leading cause of death on railways. More than 7,200 pedestrians have been killed by trains in the United States since 1997. An additional 6,400 have been injured. Each year on average about 500 are killed.[2] Between 2001 and 2011, the number of deaths involving trains and motor vehicles dropped 42% to 248. In the same period, deaths involving pedestrians only fell 6% to 434, the Federal Railroad Administration reported.[3] In 2014, every week in the United States, about 16 people were killed by trains.[4]

The most populous states have the greatest number of train fatalities. In 2014, California had 141 deaths.[4]

Notable deaths edit

  • On August 26, 1991, 41-year-old Mary T. Wojtyla, (née Walch),[5] of Chicago, was fatally hit by a Metra commuter train headed by a leased Burlington Northern Railroad EMD E9 locomotive no. 9912 at the Fairview Avenue station in Downers Grove, Illinois, United States. She walked around the front of a westbound local stopped at the station, although the crossing lights and bell were still active, and was struck by a westbound express on the center track.[6] The fatal accident was captured on camera by a railfan originally intending to film the last days of E9 service on Metra.[7] Footage of the accident is used in training videos and shown at many Operation Lifesaver events with the impact edited out.
  • In 2014, Camera Assistant Sarah Jones was killed when she was struck by a CSX freight train, led by CSX GE AC4400CW no. 372[8] that arrived on the trestle on the first day of filming Midnight Rider. The crew was on an active railroad trestle bridge, high over the Altamaha River in Wayne County, Georgia. Although the railroad had denied access to the site, her family brought a suit against CSX.[9]
  • In 2014, 'Jersey Boys' musician John Jeffrey Ray was killed by an Amtrak train while posing for a photo in Seattle, Washington.[10]
  • In 2015, Greg Plitt was hit and killed by the southbound Metrolink Antelope Valley Line train 268 in Burbank, California, on January 17, 2015, while running between the rails. His death was recorded by the camera mounted in the cab of the engine.[11]
  • In 2017, Marjorie Corcoran, an American particle physicist who worked as a professor at Rice University, died while bicycling on February 3, 2017 in Houston, from a collision with a METRORail train.[12]
  • On November 9, 2017, James Stobie, better known by his YouTube identity Stobe the Hobo, a famous train hopper was killed when he was dragged to death by an Amtrak train. According to some reports, his bag became tangled in the Amtrak train and he was dragged to his death. Another report also claims that he fell from a bridge when he became trapped on a bridge below him.[13]

Railroad industry response edit

The railroad industry has supported educational initiatives like Operation Lifesaver. The industry also may stage an enforcement blitz or put up "No Trespassing" signs.[14]

Governmental oversight edit

Federal government edit

The United States Department of Transportation administers various regulatory bodies, the most relevant to railway safety being the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). DOT oversees the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. Volpe and FRA conduct much of the available research on pedestrian railway safety.

Engineering edit

Anti-trespass panels edit

Anti-trespass panels at the Breakneck Ridge station

In the mid-2010s, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) did a pilot study on anti-trespass panels, a British innovation consisting of spiky rubber mats designed to be difficult to walk on, placed on one side of a grade crossing in an area of Fayetteville, Arkansas, popular with pedestrians. It found the panels reduced trespassing overall in the area by 38 percent over several months.[15] They have since been installed at some locations, such as the redesigned Breakneck Ridge station on Metro-North's Hudson Line in New York.[16]

Fences edit

Some have called for fencing along known trespassing hot spots in order to prevent the number of pedestrian deaths.[14] After several deaths in Villa Park, Illinois, safety advocates built fences at spots where people would often walk across train tracks.[14]

GIS data in Google maps edit

In June 2015, the FRA announced a railway safety initiative with Google that would include the FRAs GIS data into its mapping services. The data pinpoints the location of over 250,000 rail crossings in the United States. The FRA believes that providing the location of rail crossings in maps will enhance crossing safety by people who are using navigation systems while driving.[17][18]

Motion-detection cameras edit

After two children were killed by a CSX train on a bridge near the Erie Canal, motion-detection cameras were installed on the bridge, which sent images to a security company. If the company detected somebody on the tracks, a message on the speaker said: “Warning: You are trespassing on private property and are in danger of being struck by a train. Leave the area immediately.”[14]

Pedestrian bridge edit

Pedestrian bridges have been used to help prevent train pedestrian fatalities. After the 2005 death of a young boy, the city of San Jose, California built a pedestrian overpass.[14]

Education and awareness edit

Operation Lifesaver edit

Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit association, was co-founded in the 1970s by Union Pacific Railroad, and has been criticized as having a pro-railroad agenda.[19] In 2017, Operation Lifesaver, Inc. awarded $217,000 for rail safety public awareness campaigns in 15 states.[20]

Criticism edit

Operation Lifesaver has been criticized for its strong ties to the railroad industry and the group's skew toward the railroad industry. The group also has been criticized for not focusing more on pedestrian railroad accidents. The industry has reduced its support of the group's efforts by providing fewer workers to help spread the group's safety message.[21]

DuPage Railroad Safety Council edit

The DuPage Railroad Safety Council (DRSC) is a non-profit organization committed to preventing deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railways in DuPage County and all around the United States.[22]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Naylor, Brian. "Critics Say Railroads Should Do More To Prevent Pedestrian Deaths". NPR. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  2. ^ Frankel, Todd (9 December 2012). "Hundreds die walking the tracks each year". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  3. ^ Copeland, Larry. "Pedestrian deaths by train remain steady". USA Today. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b Lavelle, Marianne. "Train Deaths Rise Amid Energy-Driven Rail Transformation". Scientific American. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Traingirl: The Awful Death of Mary Wojtyla". 10 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Train Kills Woman In Downers". Chicago Tribune. Downers Grove, Illinois. August 27, 1991.
  7. ^ "Another Death by Train". Historical Ramsey, NJ. 4 August 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Manslaughter charges added in death of Sarah Jones". YouTube. February 21, 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Busch, Anita (16 July 2017). "Sarah Jones Family V. CSX: Location Manager Charley Baxter's Big Reveal". Deadline. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  10. ^ "'Jersey Boys' musician John Jeffrey Ray killed by Amtrak train while posing for photo". Associated Press. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Fitness Model Struck and Killed by Train in California". The New York Times. Associated Press. 18 January 2015. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015.
  12. ^ Glenn, Mike (February 3, 2017), "Beloved Rice scientist dies in bicycle-light rail accident", Houston Chronicle.
  13. ^ "Stobe the Hobo, the internet's most famous train-hopper, dead after apparent accident". The Daily Dot. 2017-11-17. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  14. ^ a b c d e Frankel, Todd (11 December 2012). "Towns, train fight over fences -- and responsibility for safety". St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  15. ^ Tashi Ngamdung; Marco daSilva (July 2019). Effect of Anti-Trespass Guard Panels on Pedestrian Behavior (PDF) (Report). U.S. Federal Railroad Administration. p. 30. DOT-VNTSC-FRA-17-01. Retrieved April 9, 2023.
  16. ^ "MTA Announces Metro-North Breakneck Ridge Station Reopening in Time for Memorial Day Weekend" (Press release). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. May 26, 2022.
  17. ^ "Google, FRA team up for safety; will add rail crossing data to maps". June 29, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  18. ^ Mouawad, Jad (June 29, 2015). "Agency Taps Mapping Technology to Curb Rail Crossing Accidents". New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  19. ^ Bogdanich, Walt (23 January 2005). "Highway Agency Disavows Claims by Rail Safety Group". New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  20. ^ "Operation Lifesaver, Inc. awards $217,000 for rail safety public awareness campaigns in 15 states". Operation Lifesaver. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  21. ^ Frankel, Todd (10 December 2012). "Rail safety group shrinks as danger grows". St. Louis Dispatch. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  22. ^ Pyke, Marni (19 September 2016). "DuPage railroad safety group aims to cut trespassing, suicide deaths in half". Chicago Daily Herald. Retrieved 13 July 2017.