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Missouri records most train fatalities in 5 years

We have discussed local car accidents in several previous posts, but what happens when a car and a train collide? According to one local expert, when a train hits a car, the driver is 20 times more likely to be killed than in a normal car accident. As of December 24, 13 people across the state of Missouri had been killed in train wrecks in 2011. That is the highest train-related fatality rate in five years.

Interestingly, the coordinator for Missouri Operation Lifesaver said the rebounding economy may have something to do with the increase in deaths at railroad crossings. He said railroad traffic often fluctuates with the economy, meaning more trains are operating now than were a few years ago.

About 800 trains navigated Missouri railways each day in 2006. In 2008, however, the number of active trains plummeted to 500. It is estimated that the number of trains moving through the state on a daily basis has inched up to about 600 today. And the rise in rail traffic may be affecting the train-related fatality rate.

What is interesting and perhaps disturbing about the fatality numbers from 2011 is that more than half of the accidents occurred when warning systems were activated. What this means is not entirely clear. Perhaps drivers are not noticing the signs, or maybe crossing warnings need to be more visible. With 3,600 crossing sites across the state and the fact that a train traveling at 55 mph needs a mile to come to a stop, it's important that all warning systems be in working order.

Source: News-Leader.com, "Rail traffic goes up as economy improves," Jess Rollins, Dec. 24, 2011

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