Throughout the United States there are 216,000 railroad crossings. Many of us are aware of the safety procedures that should be followed in these areas. The impact of a locomotive traveling at full speed into a passenger car can destroy the vehicle. As obvious as this destructive capability may seem, 230 people were killed in Arizona in 2015 at railroad crossings. Arizona has a history of high fatality rates around railroad tracks, but how high is it, and what’s being done about it?
In 2006, Arizona ranked 6th in the nation for the highest number of fatalities among people trespassing on railroad tracks. It also ranked 25th in fatalities at railroad crossings. Even outside of fatalities, Arizona also has a high incidence of accidents. In fact, the state is home to five of the thirteen most dangerous crossings in the country. Part of this problem could be attributed to the fact that two of these crossings don’t even have warning gates installed, opting instead for flashing lights. And while changes are being made to try and improve safety at these crossings, there’s still a problem with stuck or abandoned vehicles being left on the tracks, as well as issues caused by heavy vehicle traffic.
Knowing that this problem has to be addressed, the state government has formed a group called the Arizona Corporation Commission to investigate and review accidents and the tracks themselves. This group looks at all sorts of train incidents including collisions, pedestrians being struck, and the issue of blocked crossings and poor roadway surfaces at them. Because railroads are privately owned by large corporations, the state government doesn’t actually maintain the tracks–that’s the responsibility of the company that owns them. So, if a train accident does occur because of substandard track quality, these companies could be held liable or negligent for damages to individuals.
In addition to the Arizona Corporation Commission, the state has also launched a program called Operation Lifesaver to try and spread safety awareness. Along with safety tips encouraging drivers to stop at a safe distance from crossings, it also reminds people that the body of a train can extend out beyond the rails by up to three feet. Sadly, some people who decide to walk down train tracks aren’t aware of this and can be struck by the side of a train car. Operation Lifesaver also reminds people that trains always have the right of way, largely due to their inability to slow down in a timely fashion. That being said, trains can also be operated in a negligent fashion, sometimes going too fast for given conditions. In these circumstances, the owner of the train could be liable for the actions of their employees; something an experienced Arizona attorney may be able to help establish.
As fast and powerful as trains are, their size and the sound they produce should help people be able to avoid them safely. Sadly, statistics show that this isn’t always the case, and pedestrians and motorists still lose their lives or their cars in train accidents every year. Even though many of these accidents may be the fault of the individual, that’s not always the case. If you’ve been injured in a train accident, contact ELG Law for a free consultation. Call us at (623) 321-0566 and tell us about your experience. Victims should not be held responsible for accidents they are not responsible for, whether it be caused by another motorist or a lumbering freight train.