In an October 2018 report to Congress, the FRA said that more people are struck and killed by trains each year while trespassing than in motor vehicle collisions with trains at highway-rail grade crossings.
They are most often pedestrians who walk across or along railroad tracks as a shortcut to another destination. Some trespassers are loitering; engaged in recreational activities such as jogging, hunting, bicycling, snowmobiling, or operating off-road, all-terrain vehicles (ATV). In most states, trespassing is codified as a property crime and a general offense.
That report noted between 2012 and 2017, the annual number of trespass-related pedestrian fatalities increased 18 percent, from 725 people killed in 2012 to 855 in 2017. In calendar year 2018, 324 pedestrian trespass fatalities had occurred by July 31, 2018.
FRA’s experts from its Offices of Railroad Safety and Railroad Policy and Development said for the four-year period between November 2013 and October 2017:
- Nationwide, excluding suicides, 4,242 pedestrians were killed or injured while trespassing on railroad property. With the 1,175 suicides included, the total rises to 5,417 people.
- Of the approximately 3,100 counties and county-equivalents in the United States, approximately 14 percent of all trespasser casualties occurred in 10 counties in four different states.
- 74 percent of trespassing casualties occurred within 1,000 feet of a grade crossing.
- Slips, trips, and falls while trespassing caused 185 casualties, or 5 percent of trespassing casualties not at grade crossings.
- Approximately 73 percent of trespassing suicides and attempted suicide casualties and 74 percent of trespassing casualties excluding suicides occur within 1,000 feet of a highway-rail grade crossing.
In 2017 and 2018, Butler County reported several trespasser fatalities and injuries to the FRA. In 2017, there were two fatalities and one in 2018; and five injuries were reported in 2017. The fatalities were caused when a person was walking on the tracks and was struck by a train. Some of the injuries, which included amputated limbs or breaking a leg, were caused while people were walking down the tracks or jumping onto and slipping and falling off of a train.
Public Safety Tips
Pedestrians should keep the following safety tips in mind when encountering a railroad right of way:
• Always expect a train. This is especially critical where multiple tracks exist and the sound of one train can mask the sound of a second train on another set of tracks.
• Cross the tracks only at approved crossings. Crossing tracks at any other location is illegal and puts you at risk of tripping on rails or ballast.
• Do not try to beat a train at a crossing. It is almost impossible to accurately judge the distance and speed of an oncoming train.
• Do not stand close to the tracks. A train is at least three feet wider than the tracks on each side. Additionally, a fast moving train may kick up or drop debris.
• Do not walk along tracks, on bridges or in tunnels. You may not hear an approaching train, and because clearances in bridges and tunnels can be tight, you may not be able to escape an approaching train.
• Do not attempt to jump or climb on, over, under or in between rail equipment. Even an idle freight car can be dangerous.
SOURCE: Federal Railroad Administration