Fatal Railroad Accidents: Indiana and Illinois Both Rank in Top 5 for Number of Train Crash Deaths

Fatal Railroad Accidents: Indiana and Illinois Both Rank in Top 5 for Number of Train Crash Deaths

Will New Federal Railroad Administration Grant Money To Make Train Wrecks Less Risky Here?

This year, there’s a new campaign in Indiana targeting railroad accidents and railway dangers in our state. Its focus will be on collisions between railroad trains and motor vehicles, accidents where the occupants of the car, truck, SUV, or minivan are often killed from the impact of the crash with the large and heavy train, no matter how fast or slow it may be traveling along the tracks.

September 11 – 17, 2016 is Midwest Rail Safety Week in Illinois and Indiana

Indiana’s state-wide involvement is huge. Not only are the Indiana State Police joining forces with local police departments around the state, as well as officials with the Indiana Department of Transportation and representatives of the railroad companies who have trains moving through Indiana, but non-profits like Indiana Operation Lifesaver are also active participants.

Last year, Illinois had its own Rail Safety Week. Now, other states are following suit, including Indiana, as well as Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This is the first of what many hope will be an annual event: “Midwest Rail Safety Week.”

Literally hundreds of federal, state, and local agencies will be active in this year’s Rail Safety Week in Illinois (read the full list here).

This is a big deal, and it should be. Railroad accidents and train crashes happen far too often in our part of the country, and too many people are seriously hurt and permanently disabled, or killed and fatally injured, in these car – train collisions.

Illinois and Indiana Both in the Top Five Most Dangerous States for Fatal Train Crashes

From accident reports covering 2015, the Illinois State Police reports that there were 140 car – train collisions at railroad crossings in Illinois that year. There were an additional 41 accidents involving trespassers on railroad property (which can include the rails as well as bridges, easements, etc.). Over 50 people died that year in Illinois in these train accidents; almost 100 more were seriously injured.

Illinois is No. 2 In the Country for Fatal Train Wrecks

The State of Illinois is ranked second in the country for railroad crossing accident deaths. Illinois is fifth in the nation for fatal railroad trespassing accidents.

Indiana is No. 5 in the Nation for Train – Car Collision Fatalities

Operation Lifesaver reports on railroad accidents on a national scale, and has statistics for the dangers of train – car collisions in the State of Indiana.

Their research shows that Indiana is fifth in the country for railroad crossing accident deaths, with 12 fatalities in 2015. Each year, on average, over a hundred Hoosiers will die in a train wreck involving a motor vehicle and a moving train.

Millions in Federal Grant Money Targeting Indiana Railroads Including High Risk Zones

This month, there was a big press release issued by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), announcing that millions of taxpayer dollars are going to be distributed as federal grants to a few states across the country to help increase the safety of those traveling on or near railway crossings, railroad tracks, and train stations.

The total amount is three times higher than the amount authorized for railway safety projects last year.

These are called “Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grants.” Indiana and Illinois are two of the 14 states that will be receiving them. Indiana ($3.5Million) is getting a lot more in federal grant money this year than Illinois.

Federal grant money is being provided for the following railway safety projects in our part of the country that includes:

  1.  $129,537.00 to the Indiana Railroad Company for improvements to 321 railroad crossings for its trains and rails that run through both Indiana and Illinois. Crossings targeted here are in 10 different counties in the two states. Work includes adding warning signs where roads intersect with the Indiana Rail.

Specifically, this money will be used to improve 321 grade crossings in Marion County, Indiana; Greene County, Indiana; Johnson County, Indiana; Monroe County, Indiana; Vigo County, Indiana; Daviess County, Indiana; Sullivan County, Indiana; Brown County, Indiana; Crawford County, Illinois; Jasper County, Illinois.

2. $300,000 to the Village of Cary, Illinois for fencing, gates, and signals to be installed at the northwest end of the Cary Metra station platform.

3. $640,000 to the Indiana Department of Transportation to fix four specific Indiana railroad crossings considered especially dangerous and “at risk.” Here, the money is to be spent in adding all sorts of safety devices, such as warning bells, flashing lights, and automatic gates to bar cars from traveling over the rails when a train is coming. These four high risk crash sites are as follows:

  • Railroad crossing at State Road 64 in Oakland City, Indiana;
  • Railroad crossing at Kilgore Avenue in Muncie, Indiana;
  • Railroad crossing at State Road 49 and Knapp Road in Wheatfield, Indiana;
  • Railroad crossing at U.S. 41 in Shelburn, Indiana.

4. $2,690,000 to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to add platform access points for train passengers using the Train Station in East Chicago, Indiana. These two access points are designed to not only increase public safety but lessen delays for passengers and lower the risk of train derailments on this section of the railway. Interesting point: the project goal includes increasing the train approach speed to this Indiana Train Station from 10 mph to 40 mph.

To read the complete Federal Railroad Administration release with all the details on its September 12, 2016, Multi-MIllion Dollar Grant to Increase Safety at Railroad Crossings Train Stations, and Tracks Across the Country, go here.

Every year, history teaches us that tragedy will strike families here in Indiana and Illinois as there will be a horrific and sudden collision between a train and a motor vehicle that results in the death of one or more loved ones in that car, truck, SUV, or minivan.

It’s frustrating to recognize not only that statistics teach this lesson, but that Indiana and Illinois are particularly dangerous for fatal train crashes. We live and work in two of the most dangerous states for train – car collisions in the country.

What can we do to prevent the likelihood of becoming part of these fatal statistics? What can be done for the victims of train – car collisions here? We’ll discuss these issues in our next post. Be careful out there!


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