Train Safety Not Keeping Up With Train Traffic in Indiana: Rising Danger of Train Crashes

Train Safety Not Keeping Up With Train Traffic in Indiana: Rising Danger of Train Crashes

As more and more trains are going to be moving through Indiana in the near future — not only as railroad companies expand their rail traffic, but as additional types of rail traffic like oil trains are coming through here — it’s important for all of us to be aware of the increase in railroad train traffic, especially at railroad crossings, and to stay safe.

However, safety is not guaranteed here just because the railroad companies are expanding.

Local Concerns for Railroad Safety – What Will Railroad Companies Do?

For one thing, there are concerns among those at the local level — mayors and city officials representing towns and cities throughout Indiana, for example — who are worried about the increased dangers to the general public that this rise in train traffic will bring. More trains mean more risk of accidents at railroad crossings, for instance, and more people hurt in train crashes including pedestrians alongside moving rail cars as well as motor vehicle – train collisions.

These city planners would like to see the railroad companies do things like install more crossing gates. Fire houses and fire engines to cover an emergency may be needed, too. There’s also the increased noise, traffic pile ups at congested railroad crossings as trains pass, and the impact to local communities overall from this new rail expansion.

Right now, it’s not at all clear how these problems or going to be solved, and if (or how much) the railroad companies are going to be contributing financially to the solutions. The railroad companies are not legally required to pay for safety upgrades to railroad crossings, for example.

Railroad Companies Will Not Meet 2015 Federal Law Deadline for Rail Safety

Moreover, railroad companies are already behind in meeting federal requirements for safety devices being put on their trains and they’ve notified the Federal Railroad Adminstration that the federal deadline probably will not be met.

Under federal law, railroads are mandated to install new technology to protect against train wrecks, especially when the trains are moving at high speeds. The technology is called “positive train control” (”PTC”).

PTC works by using GPS together with computers to slow or even stop trains that are going too fast or in danger of a collision for other reasons.

The nation’s biggest freight railroad, Union Pacific, hasn’t even started putting PTC on its trains. Amtrak, the big commuter train, hasn’t done it yet, either.

This is a federal safety law that was passed in 2008 and the deadline for compliance is December 31, 2015. It’s not going to be met. There’s already work in Congress to give the railroad companies a 5 – 7 year extension.

Bottom line: when there’s more train traffic, and faster trains, combined with less safety protections in place and railroad companies not putting safety first, then the real danger to Hoosiers of train crashes and train accidents (like derailments and explosions) escalates.

Indiana drivers need to be aware of this increasing risk and take preventative measures as best they can.

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