Threats are everywhere in our modern society. It is a sad reality that you can become the victim of negligence at any time, whether it takes the form of a car accident, slip-and-fall incident, or even on-the-job work injury. However, not everyone is at the same risk for the same types of injuries and those who reside in Illinois may be surprised to know that the odds they will be involved in a train accident may be higher than some of their friends living in other states.
Train traffic is high, especially in the Chicago area where commuter trains and commercial trains fight for space at the same terminals. This means that the trains must cross paths with one another on the rails and also must cross paths with passenger vehicles at designated grade crossings. Trains also encounter pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists with some regularity at these groups must cross the same areas though should not do so at the same time.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, Illinois experienced 140 train collisions in 2015, making it the state with the third highest number of train accidents. Those collisions resulted in 24 deaths and 79 injuries in the same year which means that these incidents are affecting far more than just the trains themselves. Rather, victims and their loved ones, family members, friends, and coworkers all feel the fallout from train accidents in Illinois. Some losses are so great that victims will never fully recover.
Texas and California both ranked ahead of Illinois in the number of total train accidents while Texas had more train-related injuries and California had more train-related fatalities than Illinois. The injuries and fatalities in Illinois were the second highest of any state in the nation.
Whether you ride on a train or not, the fact is that your safety can be affected by a train accident if you live in Illinois. But why is our state experiencing so many incidents while other states have fewer?
Experts do not agree on all the factors but some are widely accepted as true. Initially, residents should note that Illinois, and specifically Chicago, continue to be high-train areas. A large number of trains both have destinations within the state and pass through the state as they travel beyond, meaning that there are a large number of railway system, a large number of street-level grade crossings, and a large number of trains operating at any time. Further, trains are a popular means of mass transit in Chicago and in the surrounding suburbs which leads to heavy interactions between pedestrians and trains. Unfortunately, the more trains and pedestrians cross paths, the greater the risks of an accident happening between these two groups and the more likely that a pedestrian will be injured or killed.
Some claim that a lack of education in Illinois is contributing to some otherwise avoidable incidents involving trains. Poor training and teaching, both initially upon hiring and subsequently during employment, among train workers and railway employees may lead workers to err and cause an accident. Drivers who try to “beat the train” or pedestrians who do not see the harm in trespassing on tracks may be blamed if an accident happens.
The best thing you can do when approaching an area that may have a train is to act cautiously and use common sense. If you are planning to get on or off the train, wait until the train comes to a complete stop before doing so. If you are driving near a crossing, heed any warnings including flashing lights and barriers and let the train proceed before you. And if you are walking, resist the urge to walk on or immediately next to the tracks even if doing so will saver you time. Above all else, act with safety in mind and you will limit your risks of being involved in a collision.
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from a train crash, though, know that speaking with a personal injury attorney can be a good way to learn about your rights and options if you are hurt and in need of help.
Prior Blog Entry:
Nearly Half of All Fatal Rollover Car Accidents Involve at least One Drunk Driver, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published October 4, 2016.
Collisions By State, Operation Life Saver, Rail Safety Education, Federal Railroad Administration, published 2016.