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Rail Transit Pedestrian Safety Statistics

Rail transit pedestrian safety is a primary concern for officials at the Federal Transit Authority, which releases a report every five years on the topic.  Along with other material, it contains hundreds of statistics that touch on the subject from a variety of perspectives.  Here are some findings contained in the 2009 Rail Safety Statistics Report, the most recent one to date.


Statistics on Fatalities


  • From the period spanning 2003-08, there were a total of 14 rail passenger fatalities.  Six were medically related, five were due to “imprudent customer actions,” and three were caused by slips and falls.
  • During the same period, 19 worker fatalities occurred.  Of these, 10 were due to right-of-way workers being struck by trains.  One was caused by an operator being struck when two trains collided.  Three were caused by medical conditions, and five were due to worksite-related accidents.
  • 72 patron fatalities occurred during the period.  10 were due to persons leaning too far forward while on trains or train platforms.  52 were due to accidents that occurred in railway stations.  62 were accidents and incidents that occurred on property controlled by rail transit authorities, including stairs, escalators, mezzanines, and parking garages.
  • 39 pedestrians died by being struck by trains.
  • 180 suicides or suspected suicides occurred on transit-controlled property.
  • 34 persons died as a result of vehicles colliding with trains.


Statistics on Injuries


  • There were a total of 1665 injuries to rail passengers during the period from 2003 to 2008 – 385 were caused by non-rail grade crossing collisions, and 525 were caused by rail grade crossing (RGX) collisions. 
  • 337 persons were injured due to derailments, 272 were hurt in fires, and 146 people were injured in accidents caused by unnamed factors.


Overall Trends


  • During the period studied (2003-08), rail-related accidents rose by 80%.  Overall, the industry suffered 5.35 accidents for every 100 million passenger miles.
  • Fire-related accidents increased 67% from 2003 to 2008.
  • Derailment-related accidents increased by 62% during the same time frame.
  • The RGX accident rate rose 55% from 2003 to 2008.


Explanation of Categories


  • Passengers – Defined as persons either on or boarding a rail transit vehicle.
  • Patrons – Defined as persons waiting for trains or leaving trains stations.  These persons may be located in a number of areas, including stairs, mezzanines, elevators, escalators, parking lots, or other places under transit authority control.
  • Workers – Defined as persons employed by rail transit agencies, or contractors with the same.
  • Public – Any other persons who come into contact with a rail transit utility.


General Observations About Rail Transit Pedestrian Safety


  • The vast majority of rail transit fatalities are caused by improper public behavior, suicides, or deaths resulting from medical conditions.
  • About 20% of the fatalities are due to slipping or falling.
  • Of the total derailment-related injuries during the period, 261 occurred during two separate Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) incidents.  Both were traced back to faulty maintenance issues.
  • Nine derailment injuries were due to human error.  The related incidents occurred in the Miami, Chicago, and Massachusetts Bay areas.
  • Automobile drivers caused 91% of the grade crossing injuries.  The other 9% were due to workforce behavior.


Comparisons with Other Transportation Modes


Despite the unfortunate accidents and fatalities discussed above, rail transit as a whole remains remarkably safe when compared to other means of transport. 


  • The rail transit fatality rate for 2003-08 was 0.02 persons per every 100,000,000 passenger miles.
  • In contrast, the fatality rates for transit busses was 0.05 for every 100,000,00 passenger miles, 0.20 for air travel, 0.41 for ferry boats, and 1.42 for motor vehicles.




Rail transit remains quite safe as a whole, especially when compared to other forms of transportation.  The increase in incidents during the 2003-08 period is a matter for concern, however.  It points to the need to address all causes of rail-related injuries and fatalities, such as railroad crossing safety issues.


The full text of the 2009 report can be found online at here