Train Accidents: June 2009 Archives

June 29, 2009

Florida Train Accidents and Injuries

The recent tragic train accident in Washington, D.C., has brought the spotlight once again on the railroad industry and the safety of this mode of transportation. The multi-train accident that killed nine passengers and injured approximately 80 people has once again raised questions of aging equipment and insufficient safety technology. These concerns are not isolated to the nation's capital, but rather concerns and criticisms have reverberated throughout the states, including Florida.

Florida residents are not immune from train accidents and injuries. In 2008, one man died and another was injured after their truck became stuck on the railroad tracks and they were struck by an Amtrak train in Seminole County, Florida. In 2007, two train accidents occurred within a few miles of one another just days apart. The first accident occurred in Lakeland, Florida, after the driver crossed the railway barrier and the car was struck by an Amtrak train killing the four occupants of the car. The second occurred in Plant City, Florida, when a passenger train collided with a container truck killing the driver. In 2002, four people were killed and 142 injured after an auto train derailed in Crescent City, Florida, after encountering a heat-induced buckle in the track.

These accidents are just a sampling of the numerous railway accidents in Florida each year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there were 342 rail accidents or incidents with 38 fatalities and 185 injuries in Florida attributed to freight trains, Amtrak trains, and other commuter trains in 2006. That same year, there were 118 incidents or accidents including 10 fatalities and 34 injuries at highway rail crossings.

In order to reduce the number of train accidents in Florida and throughout the nation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended updating outdated trains that lack appropriate safety features and crush zones. Organizations such as Operation Lifesaver stress educational programs that emphasize the importance of track safety and avoidance amongst pedestrians and automobile drivers. The Federal Railroad Administration touts safety devices such as positive train control (PTC) that helps prevent train-to-train collisions and overspeed derailments, electronically controlled pneumatic brakes for freight trains, and a national inspection plan to oversee the nation's railway system.

Unfortunately, many of these recommendations are often ignored by rail carriers.  In order to prevent future train accidents and reduce train accident injuries and deaths, it is important for rail carriers to heed the safety warnings of various agencies and implement the suggested safety features and technological updates.

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