• Are railroads ever at fault for accidents?

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by closetotracks
Every time a train wreck is mentioned on local paper some guy goes on and on how bad the railroad was it's always there fault not having guards lights and so forth. Unless there is heavy fog and poor lighting on engines I am pretty sure most reasonable people can make sound judgments on train distance with or without guards. I think he has an axe to grind with railroad. Robert Pines real name goes by Missouri on many media outlets with an axe to grind with railroad.

There was a case of an engineer who got train going while he was our of engine. Of course no sound there. But with police help you can stop at the tracks. Know trains can't stop and will go by. You can.
Last edited by closetotracks on Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Desertdweller
The answer to your question depends on the individual case.

The railroad carries a heavy responsibility for safe operation and physical condition of their property.

The public carries a heavy responsibility for their behavior when crossing railroad property.

Serious accidents are investigated by government investigators who are supposed to be unbiased.

Railroads also employ very good lawyers, and maintain very through records.

  by scottychaos
"Are railroads ever at fault for accidents?"

In cases where non-railroad people are hurt or killed by freight trains, 99% of the time it is the person's fault, not the railroad.
in probably 1%, or less, of the accidents, it's the railroad fault.

It rarely happens, but it does happen.
We had a fatality here in Rochester, NY several years back, where an elderly couple was driving over a grade crossing, and were hit and killed by a train.
The gates failed..no lights, no crossing gates down. It was winter, and it is believed that salt shorted out something, causing the failure.
That was a very rare case however..

99% of the time when a person is hit by a train, they were illegally walking on, illegally riding on, or illegally crossing over the tracks.
then you always get the idiots on the news: "the railroad should build a fence!"
umm..no, people shouldn't illegally trespass on railroad property...end of story.
but blaming a faceless "big business", rather than legitimately blaming the trespasser, plays much better on the news..

  by lirr42
Mr. Chaos puts it very well. For trespasser incidents, car strikes, etc., I'd wager that the person is at fault 99.9% of the time. People think the train can stop on a dime so what's the trouble if I drive around the gates? Surely it won't hurt anyone if I cut across the tracks here to the local shopping mall...

And I'm not sure how it works in other parts of the country, but for most places here in the northeast, the municipality/road owner is in charge of the lights/gates on the crossing, not the railroad. So even if the gates fail it might not entirely be the railroads fault. And that's besides the fact that just because a crossing is not activated doesn't mean there's not a train coming. You should always approach crossings with care, weather the crossing has gates and buzzers and flashing lights and an army of men preventing you from crossing, or if it's a tiny little private driveway with just a sign.
  by amtrakhogger
A big help on the RR's part is the installation of dash board cameras on locomotives.
  by mvb119
The crossing gates are the responsibility of the railroad's signal department, not the municipality. Since it ties into the signal system. From the Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook by the Federal Highway Administration:
The highway-rail crossing is unique to other highway features in that railroads install, operate, and maintain the traffic control devices located at the crossing. Even though a large portion of the cost of designing and constructing crossings, including traffic control devices, is assumed by the public, current procedures place maintenance responsibilities for devices located in the railroad right of way with the railroad. The public agency having jurisdiction terminates its responsibility for the roadway at the crossing surface.
http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/xings/com_ro ... /sec07.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by num1hendrickfan
There was actually a rather interesting documentary some years back on what is now the Investigative Discovery Channel ( Back when it was Discovery Times Channel ), about railroad crossing safety ( It was titled Trouble on the Tracks ). Among things that the particular documentary highlighted were how railroads didn't always maintain vegetation around unprotected railroad crossings, whereby this overgrown vegetation would create a hazardous condition ( you couldn't see a train coming ), there was at least one case of railroad equipment blocking view of the main track ( in this case a string of freight cars ). The most disturbing part of that documentary though was a freight railroad employee who wrongly installed railroad crossing jumpers and caused what is known as a "black" railroad crossing ( the incident in question that related to it was the death of two teenagers in a vehicle that used that crossing ). That incident was caught on video as the mid-western state that the incident took place in was doing high speed-rail feasibility testing, and shows the vehicle occupied by the teens being struck by a high speed Amtrak train.

Railroads have been at fault time and again, however incidents like these have gotten the public active in the safety department. Angels on Track is one such safety advocacy group that rails railroads over what are known as "Dangerous" railroad crossings. Those crossings mostly being unprotected crossings that have posed a hazard to the public and in some cases have been the site of many a fatal crash.
  by matthewsaggie
Don't forget he poor couple in Chicago driving under the RR, and had a bridge and tons of coal fall on them. Not their fault, but just as dead.
  by wigwagfan
scottychaos wrote:then you always get the idiots on the news: "the railroad should build a fence!" umm..no, people shouldn't illegally trespass on railroad property...end of story.
Yesterday while driving in Salem, Oregon where the city did build a very nice, decorative brick-and-iron fence and a nice, lit, landscaped walking path next to the Union Pacific mainline, I still saw at least two people walking down the middle of the tracks.

And to think, it's now a "quiet zone" on top of it. Yet more pedestrian-train fatalities occur in Salem than anywhere else in the state - combined.