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As of October 2023, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has recorded 742 train derailments.

The most publicized of these happened on February 3, 2023, when a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The train caught fire and sent smoke and particulate matter into the air, while crash runoff contaminated nearby waterways. Following the disaster, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an evacuation order for residents of the surrounding area.

Less than a month later, a bipartisan coalition of US senators introduced The Railway Safety Act of 2023. If passed, the law would increase safety requirements for freight trains, especially those carrying hazardous materials. It would also increase penalties for rail companies over safety violations and provide additional funding for first responders in need of additional safety equipment.

The bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in May and is headed for a vote on the Senate floor. The bill’s sponsors — including Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and J.D. Vance, a Republican — hope that additional scrutiny will prevent future train derailment disasters like the one in East Palestine.

How many trains have derailed so far in 2023?

As of October, the FRA has recorded 742 incident reports for train derailments in 2023. Additionally, railroads reported 59 collisions, 12 fires, and 138 highway-rail-crossing incidents, which could include cars or any other vehicles or people at the crossing site.

How many trains derail in the US each year?

Since 1975, an average of 2,808 trains have derailed each year, with a peak of 9,400 derailments in 1978.

In the decade following that peak, the number of derailments mostly fell through the 1980s. By 1990, derailments had reached 2,314, a 75% decrease from 1978.

There were 2,117 train derailments in 2007, but the number of incidents have remained below 2,000 since then. In 2022, train derailments were down to 1,259.

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How many people have died from train accidents?

Since 1975, approximately 467 people have died from train accidents nationwide. These include 144 people who died in derailments, 189 people who died in collisions[1], and 134 people who died in other types of accidents.

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The most recent fatalities were in 2022 when 12 people died in train accidents. 1993 had the highest number of train fatalities: 67, including 47 people who died when an Amtrak train derailed on an Alabama bridge, sending passenger cars into the river.

Train accident injuries are more common than deaths. From 1975 to 2022, 12,572 injuries resulted from derailments, collisions, and other types of train accidents.

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Which states have the most derailments?

Illinois, Texas, and Pennsylvania have had more derailments than anywhere else in the nation.

Illinois has had the most derailments since 1975, at 12,958. The state has approximately 10,000 railway miles.

Texas has the highest railway mileage — over 10,500. The state has recorded the second-highest number of derailments since 1975, at 12,841.

Pennsylvania, which has about 5,600 railway miles, had the third-largest number of derailments: 6,512.

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What is the most common type of train accident?

Derailments are the most common type of train accident, with 135,507 occurring since 1975, according to the number of incident reports filed with the FRA. Derailments account for 71% of all train accidents.

The next most common accident type is “other impact,” with 14,617, or 8% of all accident types. Other events can involve the operation of on-track equipment resulting in damages.

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What causes most train accidents?

Human factors, such as a crewmember failing to perform their duty or violating an operating rule, account for 30% of accidents.

Half of all accidents are caused by either mechanical failure (15%) or some sort of structural issue involving the track or roadbed, which is the structure that supports the track (35%). Signal or communication issues have caused 1% of accidents since 1975.

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How are train derailments reported?

Railroads involved in an incident must file an accident/incident report with the FRA. This includes any railroad that operates within the general railroad system of transportation. It does not include, for example, urban transit systems that are not connected to the nation’s railways, or a railroad that operates on track which is not part of the US’s railroad system.

A derailment can occur at any part of the train. The incident report tracks derailments of locomotives, freight cars, passenger cars, and cabooses.

Railroads must report any incident if the amount of total reportable damage is $11,500 or more.

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Rail Equipment Accident/Incident Data
Last updated
October 2023
Train Fatalities, Injuries, and Accidents by Type of Accident

These deaths exclude accidents that occur at the intersection where a highway crosses a railroad.