Rail traffic may have risen last year, but train accidents and employee casualties dropped, making 2005 one of the safest years on record. Statistics from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) show that the on-duty employee injury rate fell by 12.7 percent, while the number of employee injuries declined by 9.0 percent, breaking records set in 2004.
Preliminary data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) also showed safety gains in most areas. FRA numbers indicated that overall accidents dropped 7.9 percent from 2004 levels (which included an 8.4-percent reduction in derailments) and that grade-crossing fatalities fell 3.5 percent. AAR president Ed Hamberger attributes the improvements to industry safety training and a $17 million investment in track improvements, equipment, and communications and signaling systems.
Not all the news was good, however. Train-to-train collisions increased 8.4 percent, marring an otherwise enviable safety record.