Deaths and Injuries Mount at Suffolk’s Dangerous Railroad Crossings
Suffolk’s dangerous railroad crossings have made headlines in recent years as drivers ended up injured and killed. We were saddened to read about two serious incidents on grade crossings just days apart that left drivers with serious injuries.
Earlier this month, a driver suffered serious injuries in a crash with a train at the intersection of North Capital Street and Railroad Avenue at 10.30 p.m. Officials said a woman who was driving a vehicle was transported by Nightingale medical helicopter to an area hospital for treatment of her acute injuries.
The incident on Dec. 5 followed a crash on a grade crossing in Suffolk in late November when a male driver was hit by a train at the railroad crossing at Liberty Street in Downtown Suffolk. The car struck a Norfolk Southern train. A WAVY report noted the driver survived the crash but was treated for serious injuries. No passengers were in the car and the train did not derail.
Also in November, a car driver narrowly escaped injury when his Ford Mustang broke down on the tracks and was hit by a train at S. Saratoga Street and Hall Avenue in Suffolk.
Frustrations Over Railroad Crossings
As experienced railroad injury lawyers, we are alarmed by this spate of accidents in Suffolk. Tragedies on Suffolk’s dangerous railroad crossings are nothing new. In 2018, a 61-year-old dump truck driver from Norfolk died in a crash with an Amtrak. Drivers have lost their lives for decades on grade crossings in Suffolk.
Recent reports point to growing frustration in Suffolk over delays on crossings. It’s not yet known if drivers sought to beat trains before the recent railroad wrecks. However, WAVY recently reported many residents endure waits of up to 20 minutes for slow trains on grade crossings. One resident said her sister missed her high school graduation because of a slow train while others told the station how they rush to beat trains. Others said waiting for slow trains at crossings made them late for work.
Some residents said trains on the Commonwealth Railway come to a complete stop for extended periods. The short line services the busy Virginia International Gateway port in Portsmouth. Containers unloaded from ships at the port trundle through Suffolk to reach Norfolk Southern and CSX lines, the report stated. The City of Suffolk noted the length of trains is increasing due to an upsurge in business at the port.
Grade crossing crashes and derailments question the safety of the railroad in Suffolk. In 2018, eight cars and an engine derailed in the 300 block of Baron Boulevard at Shoulders Hill Road. Suffolk. The derailment damaged backyards and the roadbed. Fortunately, no injuries were reported. The State Corporation Commission suggested a broken rail caused the derailment.
Derailments are the main cause of train crashes in the United States. Broken and defective tracks cause many derailments, questioning the level of investment in our rail infrastructure. From 2001 to 2010, 54,889 of the 58,299 train accidents in the United States were train derailments, representing 94 percent.
Suffolk witnessed another scene of chaos in Feb. 2017 when 44 coal trucks on a Norfolk Southern train derailed at the Wellons Street crossing. The derailment spilled about 9 million pounds of coal. Nobody was injured. The cause of the derailment is unknown.
Can a Railroad be Liable for Injuries at Suffolk’s Dangerous Railroad Crossings?
Railroad crossings are accident hotspots nationwide. The U.S. Department of Transportation states about 5,800 train-car crashes occur every year in the United States, most of them at grade crossings. Railroad crossing accidents cause about 600 deaths and more than 2,300 injuries every year.
Some crashes occur when drivers try to beat trains or vehicles get stuck on the lines. However, many crossings are hazardous by design and poorly maintained. Numerous accidents in Suffolk raise serious questions about the safety of these road/rail intersections that thousands of people use every day in the city.
Railroads can be liable for crossing accidents due to:
- Poor crossing design affording a lack of visibility;
- Malfunctioning signal arms or lights;
- The railroad’s failure to cut down vegetation that allows drivers to see trains approaching;
- Broken and hazardous rails;
- The failure of a train engineer to sound the horn when approaching a crossing;
- Trains speeding through crossings;
- Derailments of trains at crossings.
Many grade crossings in rural areas lack basic safety features like barriers and flashing lights. Drivers face particular dangers at rudimentary crossings. The attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers have represented people who suffered injuries in railroad crossing crashes and families who lost loved ones. We are concerned about the ongoing incidents at Suffolk’s dangerous railroad crossings. Please call us for a free, no-obligation consultation.