Pedestrian and Train Accidents – Are Crossings Safe Enough?
We hear about tragic cases involving trains hitting people crossing the tracks on a regular basis. This week, in Gastonia, North Carolina, a man was killed on the tracks. Railroads may be liable for pedestrian and train accidents.
The local media reported a man was walking north on Hancock Street when he was hit by a train. He tried to walk across the tracks and beat the train, according to reports. The 57-year-old pedestrian was transported to CaroMont Regional Medical Center where he later died.
We were saddened to read about this case. Many accidents between trains and pedestrians occur in Hampton Roads. Deadly accidents between trains and people on foot occur more often than many people believe.
How Common Are Fatal Pedestrian and Train Accidents?
According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, 1,080 pedestrians were hurt or killed in accidents with trains in 2017.
Although many of these cases involve pedestrians trespassing on the tracks, some pedestrians lost their lives on grade crossings.
Many grade crossings are extremely unsafe for both drivers and pedestrians. They may lack features like electronic gates and lights or undergrowth obscures the view down the tracks.
How Can Pedestrian Safety Be Improved at Railroad Crossings?
According to PedBikeSafe.org, many devices and markings can help improve pedestrian safety at railroad crossings. They include the following:
- Swing gates
- Channels for walkers and cyclists
- Pedestrian barriers
- Pavement markings
- Fixed message signs
- Raising the approaches to the track to improve visibility.
- Using active devices such as variable message signs and flashers.
The organization suggests reviewing crossings to highlight ones that need improvement. These crossings may see frequent pedestrian movements, be in school zones, have inadequate sight down the track, or be wide crossings that traverse many tracks.
Many serious and fatal accidents to pedestrians occur at crossings that lack protection such as gates and flashing lights. The FRA reports about a third of all railroad accidents occur at crossings.
In rural areas like Suffolk, Sussex, and Isle of Wight, many railroad crossings lack barriers and other protections.
We also see pedestrian accidents occurring in cities like Norfolk and Portsmouth that have many urban crossings.
A railroad may be liable for a pedestrian accident if it did not do everything in its power to protect the person crossing the road. However, a railroad is not typically liable for injuries or the death of a trespasser. The exception to the rule may occur when children are able to play on the railroad due to negligence on the behalf of a railroad like a hole in a fence.
If you have been injured on a grade crossing or in a pedestrian and train accident, you may have grounds to sue the railroad. Read our resources on railroad crossing accidents in Virginia or call our railroad accident team today for a free consultation at (757) 455-0077.