Deadly Amtrak Crash Raises Questions About Passive Railroad Crossings
The latest deadly Amtrak crash has raised new questions about the safety of the nation’s passenger train service as well as passive or uncontrolled crossings.
Four people died and 150 suffered injuries when an Amtrak train traveling at the speed limit of 90 mph plowed into a dump truck in Missouri and derailed.
Details on the Recent Amtrak Crash
The crash occurred on June 27 when the train crashed into the back of a truck hauling crushed rocks to an Army Corps of Engineers site. The tragedy came just a day after three died when an Amtrak train smashed into a car in California killing three people inside the vehicle.
The train in Missouri was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago with 275 passengers and 12 crew members on board according to Amtrak. Three people aboard the train died and 150 passengers and crew were injured. One occupant of the dump truck was also killed.
History of Amtrak Accidents on Railroad Crossings
Amtrak has a long record of crashes in recent years. Many of these occurred on grade crossings. Jennifer Homendy, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the crash again raises questions about so-called “passive crossings” that are not controlled by features such as gates, lights, and bells.
According to ABC News, Homendy expressed frustration that NTSB recommendations made by the safety agency as long ago as 1998 went unheeded.
“We see tragedy after tragedy after tragedy and numerous fatalities and injuries,” Homendy said in a statement. “It’s very frustrating for our investigators, very frustrating when they are on scene and they know what would have prevented this.”
It would have cost about $400,000 to upgrade the crossing where the fatal wreck occurred, according to media reports.
Passive Railroad Crossings in Missouri
Homendy said she was concerned with the grade crossing rather than any potential mechanical defects on the train. The Missouri Department of Transportation has the location on a list of crossings it wants to upgrade.
Missouri contains 3,500 similar passive railroad crossings which comprise half of the state’s grade crossings. Nationwide there are as many as 130,000 passive railroad crossings including some in Virginia.
The tragedy also highlights a lack of action in the trucking industry. In 1998, the NTSB recommended that vehicles such as trucks incorporate technology that could alert drivers of the presence of a train on an approach to a grade crossing.
Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this tragedy and the injured. Some passengers’ lives will have been changed forever due to severe injuries they suffered from the impact.
Grad Crossing Death Statistics
According to the Rail Safety Education’s Operation Lifesaver, 2,148 rail grade crossings occurred in 2021, resulting in 238 deaths and 662 crossing injuries. Three deaths and 8 injuries were recorded in Virginia. Grade crossings are the most hazardous places on the rail network.
Seek Legal Counsel for Railroad Accidents
When a railroad tragedy like this occurs, a number of parties can be held liable. A railroad can be held to account for an inadequate crossing or poor maintenance, Amtrak could be held accountable, or lawsuits could be brought against a trucking company for the negligent actions of a driver.