Federal Railroad Administrator: We All Must Do More to Prevent Fatalities at Railroad Crossings

Posted on July 25, 2016

WASHINGTON –Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg today called for greater action to prevent fatalities at the nation’s more than 200,000 railroad crossings following several significant incidents in recent weeks that have killed parents and their children at railroad crossings.

 “Over the last six weeks, there have been three significant, tragic railroad crossing incidents. Each took the lives of parents and young children. In San Leandro, California, a mother and her 3-year-old child were killed. In Colorado, a mother, a father and three of their four young children were killed on the way to church. And several days ago in Arkansas, a mother, her son and two other children were killed.

 “These heartbreaking incidents are in addition to the other 87 people killed and 236 people injured this year at railroad crossings.

 “While many of these incidents are still under investigation, we know that incidents like these are almost always preventable. And yet, they still happen. We all must do more to protect drivers and their passengers – many of whom are children. “The responsibility to improve safety at railroad crossings rests on all of us – safety regulators, state officials, the railroads themselves, law enforcement and even the private companies that conduct business in the transportation sector.

 “To our state partners: We know you continue to struggle to find the necessary funding to close or improve the most dangerous crossings in your state. While the federal government contributes funding to these projects each year through Federal Highways’ Section 130 Program, and in fact has contributed more this year than in years past, states should continue to leverage their own funds as well, and should apply for federal funds wherever possible.

 “To railroads: Along with your continued support for advocacy and awareness campaigns, we urge you to redouble your efforts to integrate new technologies to avoid railroad crossing incidents, and to take more aggressive steps to report problematic or dangerous crossings to state and local officials.

 “To our tech partners: We are grateful for your partnership and for your enthusiasm and willingness to improve safety. But we urge you to integrate our railroad crossing data into your mapping applications and other pertinent technologies as soon as possible. While the full and ultimate safety impact of integrating crossing data into applications remains unknown, we must try everything we can to address this challenge.

 “To the Congress: We applaud the additional funding added to Federal Highways’ Section 130 program this year, as well as the new funding for a much-needed public media campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of railroad crossings. However, much more needs to be done – and we encourage you to continue to work with safety regulators, state and local officials, railroads, law enforcement, and private companies.

 “Improving safety and saving lives at railroad crossings has been and continues to be one of FRA’s highest priorities. We have put more focus and attention on this problem than ever before – through funding, a brighter public spotlight, new attention from FRA safety specialists, new research, new partnerships with tech companies and law enforcement and more aggressive and frequent investigations. We will continue to do all that we can to have a greater impact on this solvable challenge – and we urge our partners and friends to join us.”

 Last year, FRA launched a new, comprehensive campaign to reverse the uptick in fatalities at railroad crossings. The campaign includes partnering with tech companies External Link to use FRA data that pinpoints the country’s approximately 200,000 railroad crossings and add crossing alerts to map applications. FRA has also worked with local law enforcement to increase enforcement around railroad crossings External Link. In 2015, 244 individuals died at railroad crossings, down from 264 in 2014.

 Those efforts have continued in 2016. In March, FRA launched a redesigned website to serve as a one-stop shop to help drivers, pedestrians and law enforcement stay safe around railroad crossings. The launch follows the agency’s award of nearly $10 million in grants for nine projects in eight states to upgrade and increase the safety of railroad crossings along energy routes. The agency also released a list of railroad crossings with most incidents over last decade and offered both technical and financial assistance to increase the safety at these and other crossings.

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