Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety education organization, and the Federal Railroad Administration recently released data on the safety of the nation's railways. The statistics show that California and Texas lead the nation in railroad crossing accidents.
Fifteen states accounted for 61 percent of all railroad crossing accidents, and 75 percent of all railroad crossing deaths. California and Texas were at the head of that group. Texas had 177 railroad crossing incidents in 2009, 23 of which resulted in deaths. California had 111 railroad crossing incidents that same year, but 29 of them were fatal.
Why are RR Crossing Deaths so High in CA and TX?
There are several explanations for the high number of accidents in these two states. Unguarded crossings are the biggest culprit. At these crossings, there are no lights, guardrails or other signals to indicate when a train is approaching. Drivers may not stop to check the crossing, which could cause a collision with an oncoming train. However, accidents can occur even when crossings are guarded. In some cases, lights have gone out and guard gates have malfunctioned, with tragic consequences. Another unsettling explanation for accidents at railroad crossing may be neglect on behalf of railroad companies, which are responsible for the construction and maintenance of guardrails and lights at crossings.
In 2008, Congress passed a law mandating that states at the top of the list for railroad crossing accidents must develop a safety plan and implement it within five years. The law puts the burden of safety and guardrail maintenance on state governments, given that private railroad companies own the tracks and operate the trains. However, some argue that the companies should be held responsible for railroad crossing safety, not taxpayers.
Regardless of who is responsible, railroad crossings in the states of California and Texas pose a safety risk to the residents of those states. Taking measures to improve the safety of railroad crossings-especially those that are unguarded-would be prudent and should be mandatory. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a poorly maintained or unsafe railroad crossing, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Please speak to a personal injury attorney to discuss your situation and help you pursue your claim.
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