As Joplin auto accident lawyers, we're sad to note that the problem of pedestrian railroad deaths appears to be growing. In 2012, fatal train accidents involving pedestrians increased by 7.5% in the U.S., while the total number of train accidents dropped by 16.5%. Unfortunately, this year's data doesn't suggest any improvement - in fact, pedestrian/train accidents are becoming shockingly common, both here in Missouri and throughout the country.
Pedestrian/train accidents: What new federal data reveals
• Nationwide, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is reporting a 25% increase in the number of pedestrians who have suffered fatal injuries in accidents involving trains. Between January 1 and August 31, there were 352 pedestrian railroad deaths, which are classified by the FRA as "trespasser fatalities." The FRA reported 281pedestrian deaths during the same time period in 2012.
• If the fatality rate continues at this pace, pedestrian railroad deaths could reach 538 by the end of 2013. The rate hasn't been that high since 2002.
• Missouri has reported four pedestrian railroad deaths this year, while Illinois has reported 20. In fact, 43 out of 50 states have reported at least one pedestrian/train fatality, with New Jersey reporting largest increase (jumping from two during the first eight months of 2012 to 16 during the same time period this year).
Avoiding pedestrian accidents on railroad tracks: A few safety tips
• Pedestrians must remember that all railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are considered private property. In addition to risking serious injury or death, you risk being charged with trespassing when you walk on train tracks.
• There is only one safe place to cross train tracks: at a designated public crossing that is marked with a gate, flashing red lights or a crossbuck sign. Crossing the tracks in any other place is also considered trespassing.
• When you're walking anywhere near railroad tracks, remove your ear buds and put away your phone or MP3 player. All too many pedestrian/train accidents occur when a pedestrian is distracted by an electronic device and fails to hear a train approaching.
• Walking next to the tracks is also extremely risky. According to Operation Lifesaver, trains overhang the tracks by a minimum of three feet on both sides, and straps hanging from rail cars can stick out even further. Err on the side of caution, and keep your distance from the tracks.
• Always look both ways before crossing the tracks - and never cross immediately after a train has passed. It may sound like silly advice, but a number of train accidents could be prevented if pedestrians kept this simple tip in mind. Trains don't always follow set schedules, and they don't always approach from the same direction. Also, a passing train can block your view of another train that's fast approaching.