Train Accidents and How to Protect Yourself
With over 200,000 miles of track and 600 railroads, the United States has an elaborate and expensive, but outdated, railroad system. While it is fortunate that train accidents are nowhere near as frequent today as they were in years past, railroad incidents still cause an unacceptable amount of injuries and deaths throughout the country each year.
Most of the accidents that occur at an average of every hour and a half each day could have been prevented through proper track maintenance or other important, yet overlooked, measures. More than 10,000 train accidents occur every 12 months and approximately 1,000 people die as a result.
Train passengers are legally entitled to an extremely high duty of care from those responsible for the maintenance and operation of the train line. A large majority of train accidents are caused by some dereliction of this duty on the part of the railway company, train operator or signal operator, but some of these incidents come about due to the negligence of drivers of motor vehicles, who fail to yield to trains at railroad crossings.
Passengers involved in and injured by train accidents have very few opportunities to ensure or control their safety, and their injuries are considered the legal responsibility of anyone whose negligence caused the crash. Drivers of motor vehicles who regularly use or cross railroad crossings have more options at their disposal with which to prevent a deadly accident.
Railroad Accident Facts
The Federal Railroad Administration has found that over 80% of all railroad crossings have inadequate warning devices. This, coupled with the fact that most railroad companies still heavily rely on railroad technology that was developed over 70 years ago, provides an insight into why some of the worst train accidents occur.
Trains carrying hazardous chemicals or other materials derail approximately once every two weeks in the United States, yet train collisions involving motor vehicles are on the decline. Unfortunately, train collisions involving pedestrians have risen rather than declined. More than half of all train accidents take place at crossings without gates or other guards.
How to Protect Against Train Accidents
Passengers, despite their apparent powerlessness, can do many things to increase their safety and avoid injuries caused by train accidents. Passengers should begin their journey by observing common sense safety on the train platform: do not run on the platform, do not push anybody standing with you on the platform and always wait behind the designated line at the edge of the platform. When the train arrives, get on board immediately to avoid getting stuck between the doors.
Once on board, passengers should store their belongings quickly on their lap, the overhead rack or under their seats but never in the aisles. Hold any available handrails when moving on to or through the train and stay seated as much as possible while the train is in motion. Passengers should gather their belongings and prepare to exit the train before it reaches their station, but never lean on the train doors or try to hold them open.
Pedestrians may be individuals walking nearby the train tracks or station; they may also be the former or future passengers on a train. Pedestrians should only cross tracks at designated crossing areas and look both ways before crossing with extreme caution. Walking or playing on train tracks is illegal and highly dangerous and should be avoided at all times. Pedestrians who come upon a railroad crossing with closed gates or with a signal alerting the presence of an oncoming train should never attempt to run across quickly, but should wait until the train has moved through and away from the crossing.
Motor Vehicle Drivers
Motor vehicle drivers should observe the same caution as pedestrians when approaching railroad crossings. Additionally, it is essential to never drive along railroad tracks. Drunk-driving is illegal and highly dangerous in all situations but even more so if the intoxicated driver attempts to drive near a train. Never approach a railroad crossing after imbibing any alcoholic beverage, no matter how sober you may feel.
Train Accident Lawyers Provide Additional Protection
It is unwise to assume that those responsible for a train accident will willingly step forward to volunteer assistance for those injured due to their negligence. If you have been injured in a train collision, whether you were a passenger, pedestrian or motor vehicle driver, you need the assistance of a train accident attorney to help you pursue your case and receive appropriate compensation. Train accident attorneys have the experience and expertise in handling cases against large and wealthy railroad companies, and have a large network of experts and professional witnesses to provide evidence and assistance in substantiating your case. A knowledgeable train accident lawyer will provide additional protection after a traumatic train collision, by making sure that your rights are upheld and that you receive everything that you are entitled to.