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FRA Reports Pedestrian Rail Accidents on the Rise?

You would think a train would be easy for pedestrians to see, hear, and even feel. After all, locomotives are big and noisy; and even the light rail systems (METRORail) that connect parts of downtown Houston, are as big as a bus. Unfortunately, our obsession with distractions and changes in industry standards may have led to a higher rate of railroad accidents involving pedestrians. Although the output of train whistles are set by NTSB standards, the rail industry has devoted tons of research and development into reducing noise levels, especially for rail systems operating in urban areas.

During the summer, local eyewitnesses reported that they saw a man who was hit and killed while walking with his back to an approaching train even though the crossing arms were down, warning lights were flashing and the train's operator was blowing the train's whistle. It was also reported that the victim was wearing ear buds at the time of the accident. This was the second time within a week that a pedestrian was hit and killed near the same intersection. The initial victim was hearing impaired and also may not have heard the oncoming train. More recently, a Kingwood pedestrian was struck at night and killed by a freight train.

According to preliminary data for 2015 that was compiled and studied by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), statistics show train-related pedestrian injuries and deaths are on the rise. The survey stated that 950 pedestrians had been injured while trespassing on railroad property. Although nearly all of those injuries were believed to be preventable, more than half resulted in fatalities. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is currently reviewing pedestrian crossing improvements as part of the agency's transit system safety programs, especially where roadways are shared by trains, vehicles and pedestrians.

When you choose to walk in an area that has railroad tracks, or are forced to negotiate rail crossings on your route, it is important to understand that as a pedestrian you have a responsibility to keep yourself safe. This includes observing safety signals, railroad crossing gates and flashing lights just like the driver of a vehicle. It is also crucial to understand that a train cannot stop like other vehicles, which often renders the train's operator helpless in situations where the victim is seen but not within a reasonable stopping distance.

Like all personal injury cases, pedestrian accidents involving the railways are very complex. There are standards which limit how far cargo can hang over the rails as well as how soon warnings signals and crossing arms must deploy before a train's arrival. If you or a loved one were hurt by negligence on part of a railway worker or railroad company, you may be entitled to seek restitution for your injuries. To speak directly with a Humble personal injury attorney, call (281) 446-1124.