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What Are the Chances of a Train Crash?

While less common than accidents involving cars or trucks, a train crash is far more likely to garner significant media attention. A train derailment–even one where there are no people killed or injured–raises serious concerns about the overall safety of the country’s rail networks. This is especially true when it comes to accidents involving trains carrying potentially hazardous cargo.

Indeed, most of Pennsylvania’s train tracks are used to carry freight. And we have seen a number of high-profile train crashes in recent years involving dangerous cargo. For example, in July 2023 a train carrying chemicals used in dry cleaning derailed here outside Philadelphia, forcing evacuations in the suburb of Whitemarsh Township. According to the Washington Post, 16 out of 40 cars on the CSX-owned train derailed, one of which contained the hazardous dry cleaning chemical. CSX blamed the crash on an apparent weather-related sinkhole.

Earlier this year, Time magazine reported that there had been at least five “significant” train crashes between December 2021 and March 2023 involving another major freight carrier, Norfolk Southern. In one such accident, a Norfolk Southern conductor died after his train was struck by a dump truck. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was “concerned that several organizational factors may be involved in the [Norfolk Southern] accidents, including safety culture.”

Train Accidents by the Numbers

Train derailments are surprisingly more common than most people realize. According to official figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics:

  • There were 1,743 train accidents reported in 2022.
  • More than two-thirds of train accidents (1,164) were derailments.
  • There were 99 reported collisions involving a train and another vehicle.
  • There were 56 injuries reported in all 2022 train accidents.
  • There were 12 deaths reported in all 2022 train accidents.

It is worth noting that most fatalities in train crashes occur in non-derailment accidents. The BTS figures indicate there were zero derailment fatalities between 2018 to 2020, and just 4 total deaths in 2021 and 2022. Most fatal train accidents occur in collisions or other types of accidents involving trains.

So overall, the actual risk of being seriously injured or killed in a train accident is quite low. KTLA in Los Angeles reported this past June that “odds of dying in a train derailment are lower than your odds of dying in a car crash, boating accident or onboard a commercial airline.” For comparison’s sake, more than 42,000 people die in car crashes in the United States each year, while train accident fatalities are only about a dozen.

Contact Quinn Law Group Today

Despite the figures, if you do suffer the misfortune of being injured in a train accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and other damages. Our skilled Philadelphia train accident lawyer can help. Contact Quinn Law Group today to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our staff. Your well-being and pursuit of justice are our top priorities. Don’t let a train accident derail your life; let us help you get back on track to recovery.