A recent study by Injury Claim Coach cataloged the number of railroad crossing accidents from 2014 to 2018, and they found 462 reported accidents with 25 percent causing injuries and 16 percent causing fatalities. That number makes Florida the sixth biggest state for railroad accidents and 11th biggest for railroad fatalities.
The majority of train collisions in Florida and the United States happen to road vehicles. Only a few pedestrians get hit by trains, but when it happens injuries and deaths are far more likely.
The most common locations for railroad accidents are low-income neighborhoods. The people who live in these areas are less likely to pay attention to signals or other signs that a train is coming, and the crossings in these areas might be in poor repair and not work correctly. On top of this, high-speed trains are new to this part of America, and so drivers and pedestrians don’t always realize how little time they have to get out of the way.
To some extent, time might be the only effective solution. High-speed trains are an effective way to move people across the state, and the highways are infamously dangerous thanks to their congestion and poor condition. A new rail line may cause some accidents, but it also prevents them by getting people off the road. In time, Florida drivers and pedestrians will become familiar with high-speed trains and know how to avoid them better.
Also, the statistics might not be as bad as the numbers suggest. Injury Claim Coach ranked states based on the total number of accidents, and so the most populated states, Texas and California, were at the top of the list. As the fourth most populated state, Florida is doing relatively well to come in sixth for railroad accidents.
Still, there are active steps that Florida’s state and local governments can take to reduce accidents. It’s always important to inspect and maintain railroad crossings, and to make sure they activate early when a high-speed train is coming through. Local governments should also take an active role in educating the public on why you need to respect the warning lights at railroad crossings and why you should always look both ways before you cross the tracks.
The Legal Issues
Unfortunately, if you get in an accident with a train, there probably isn’t much you can do. Between their speed and their weight, trains aren’t easy to stop, and so they always have the right of way when they cross a street or a pedestrian walkway. You might be able to make a case if the conductor was negligent in honking the horn or if they don’t pay enough attention to passengers and vehicles near a train station, but this is unlikely.
However, you may have a case against the state or local government or the railroad company if the warning lights or gate arm malfunction before a train goes by. Not every crossing has these warnings and you should check both ways regardless, but when the signals are present there is a reasonable expectation that they should work. If they don’t, you may have a case for negligence.
Railroad accidents are always dangerous and often serious, but then so are the road accidents in Florida. Remember to stay safe out there and always look both ways no matter how you’re getting around and no matter what kind of road you’re crossing.