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.
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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.
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, and 134 people who died in other types of accidents.
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.
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.
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.
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.