Brad Pistotnik Law
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What Happens When There Is No Wrong Side/Right Side of the Tracks?

What Happens When There Is No Wrong Side/Right Side of the Tracks?

What happens when there is no wrong side/right side of the tracks? What happens to cars and pedestrians who get caught in the path of an oncoming train? There are thousands of vehicle and pedestrian collisions involving trains each year. Most happen at intersections when drivers attempt to cross the tracks. When a train strikes a vehicle or a pedestrian, the train always wins. Anyone fortunate enough to survive the collision is often left with serious, life-altering injuries.

Collisions at Train Crossings

Train crossings are inherently dangerous. In 1981, 9,461 collisions occurred at rail crossings. These caused 728 fatalities and 3,293 injuries. The significant number of accidents at rail crossings prompted the federal government into action. In addition to enhanced training and enforcement, it led to substantial investment in railroad infrastructure that included new signals, improved tracking systems, installation of crossing barriers, and more.

By 1982, the number of collisions, fatalities, and injuries began to drop. That year, 7,932 collisions occurred that caused 607 fatalities and 2,637 injuries. Over the last 40 years, the number of collisions, fatalities, and injuries gradually declined, almost year after year. In 2018, 2,227 collisions occurred that caused 260 fatalities and 845 injuries, and in 2019, 2,216 collisions were recorded that caused 293 fatalities and 807 injuries.

While the numbers are significantly less than in 1982, they are trending upwards, which is cause for concern. As of September 2020, the Federal Railroad Administration has recorded 4,168 collisions/incidents. These have caused 389 fatalities and 2,647 injuries.

Causes of Train/Vehicle Collisions

There are many factors that can cause a train/vehicle collision. An auto lawyer in Kansas can help investigate these causes and pursue compensation for the liable parties. One of the most common causes of train/vehicle collisions is train conductor negligence. This includes driving too fast for conditions, train engineer distraction, failing to ensure the train's braking systems were functional, failing to brake in a timely manner, etc.

Improperly maintained tracks can also result in collisions. In the United States, the company that owns the railroad is responsible for maintaining the tracks. Tracks that are not properly maintained can result in derailment, which can cause cars to topple on pedestrians and vehicles from tracks that run parallel to the road.

Data from the Federal Railroad Administration show that in 2020, 306 of these accidents were caused by human errors. A total of 185 were caused by track problems, while 99 were caused by faulty equipment, and malfunctioning signals caused 16.

By far, rail crossings are the most dangerous, especially highway-rail grade crossings. In 2019, 2,216 such collisions were recorded. The five states with the most highway-rail collisions were Texas, California, Florida, Indiana, and Illinois. Combined, these states recorded 798 collisions that claimed 135 lives and injured 317 people. One of the most common causes of collisions at railroad crossings are improperly maintained crossing signals and barriers. When these malfunction, they can fail to alert drivers and pedestrians to the presence of an oncoming train. When these fail, the railroad operator, or local government may be liable depending on who bore the responsibility for maintaining that particular crossing.

Contact Brad Pistotnik Law at 1-800-241-BRAD or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400. Brad Pistotnik is an auto lawyer who represents motorists involved in train-vehicle collisions in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas. You can call Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can reach Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237.