Top 10 Causes of Train Accidents


Top 10 Causes of Train Accidents

We all dreamed of being train conductors as children. Some of us spent hours building train sets in our basements. Then we discovered the Lineal Train Sets. Although model trains are fun to build and look at, the real danger lies in the weight of the actual trains, which can weigh up to 4,000 lbs. From 4,000 to more than 20,000 lbs. There are many types of trains. You have the subway system trains you see in NYC, international transit trains, commuter trains, and freight trains that transport goods across the country. Trains can be dangerous and should be avoided. Today, the majority of train crashes are caused by freight trains. Next are commuter trains. Today, most trains have fewer than six passengers onboard during a trip. You may find a commuter train engineer who is responsible for operating the train. There are also two conductors who manage safety and general operations during the commute. Additionally, there are several ticket conductors who go up and down the aisles collecting your tickets and money, as well as an assistant conductor, or “brakeman”, who assist with the operation. Check the probability of train accidents occurring using the probability calculator.

Three to four operators are required for freight trains: an engineer, a conductor, and a brakeman. It is surprising how low the train trip takes to cover such a large operation. It’s easy to find the probability calculator online.

Train Accident Causes

  • Common Train Accidents

Train derailments are followed by train collisions as the most common train accident type. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that there are approximately 1800 train accidents per year. Most of these accidents result in severe injuries and more than 5 to 7 deaths each year. In 2019, there were 1848 accidents involving train tracks, 1283 train derailments, 115 train collisions, and 450 others. There were 57 injuries and four deaths from these train accidents. The previous year saw 1934 train accidents. There were 1375 train derailments, 86 train collisions, and 473 were classified as other. There were 204 injuries and seven deaths from these train accidents.

Causes of train accidents

Although each accident is different, these are the most common causes of train accidents:

  • Negligence by the Train conductor, engineer, or other individuals working on the tracks
  • Human error;
  • Reckless drivers and pedestrians;
  • Failures mechanical
  • Trains operating at a speed that is too fast for the circumstances
  • Defective tracks;
  • Derailments;
  • Railroad crossings that are not protected
  • Cars that have been abandoned on the track are slated for destruction
  • Suicide.


  • Negligence

Train accidents that are caused by negligence can be attributed to a number of factors, including the railroad company, the engineer or conductor, the rail maintenance operator, or the rail company. Sometimes the signal may have failed or the crossing arms may have not worked properly. It is crucial to request the railroad company preserve any materials that may have been involved in the train’s operation immediately after a train accident or injury.

  • Human error

This could be caused by poorly trained railway employees and long working hours. Just as in truck and car accidents, human error may also be a cause of train accidents. A conductor might leave his/her station and not see a vehicle that is stalled on the tracks. This would most likely lead to an accident.

  • Pedestrians and automobile drivers 

Accidents on trains are not always caused by the railroad, railway operator, engineers, or employees. It could also be due to negligence or carelessness of pedestrians or drivers. Collisions can occur when pedestrians or drivers aren’t paying attention.

Defective parts used to maintain equipment signals and rails may cause mechanical failures. Even with all the safety precautions taken by rail operators, it is possible for unforeseeable circumstances to occur that are not within their control. If the tracks are not regularly inspected, any debris or other materials could cause a train’s derailment or “jolt”, causing injury to passengers or others near the tracks.

  • Fast Trains

Speedy trains operating at speeds exceeding the posted speed limit may not be able to slow down or cause a derailment. Trains are powerful and large. The force of a train could have deadly consequences. Although it may take many trains miles to reach speed, trains can stop in a reasonable time due to their weight. It is crucial that trains don’t travel too fast or speed up for the conditions, such as when it is raining or in cities.

  • Defective tracks/ obstructions on the tracks

Sometimes, tracks that are not properly installed can lead to serious consequences. Trees, pipes, or other objects can fall onto the tracks, which can have severe repercussions. To ensure safety, tracks must be regularly inspected. If there are reasons to believe that tracks contributed to or caused the accident or injury, it is worth asking for inspections of the train tracks.

Train derailments can be caused by objects on the track or speedy trains. Conductor error, conductor error, and defective parts.

Railroad crossings are not equipped with warning signals or crossing arms. In most cases, crossing arms signals pedestrians and drivers that a train is approaching. However, due to the sheer number of crossing points and drivers, crossing arms may not be possible. Sometimes, cameras are installed at these crossings to help in recreating the accident scene.

  • Stalled vehicles on tracks 

Sometimes cars become stuck on the track and drivers are unable to get their vehicles out. Try starting your vehicle again if this happens. If that fails, put your car in neutral. Next, push your vehicle off of the track by pushing it. Finally, if a train approaches, get out of your vehicle.

  • Suicides

Unfortunately, some people decide to end their own lives by standing in front of a train or other vehicle. Sometimes they even stop their vehicle on tracks. This can have a negative impact on their lives and the lives of others. In some cases, however, the conductor of a train might still be responsible as they may have been able to stop it in time before it collided.

What is a Train Engineer?

The engineer controls the train’s speed, handling, and brakes. Every three years, the engineer must renew his or her certification. The train’s entire operation is the responsibility of the engineer. He must be able to understand and know the tracks, track layouts, curves, and inclines as well as speed limits, signals, and crossings. Other train schedules and other stations are also available.

What is a Train Conductor?

The Conductor is the safety and operational expert. He or she is responsible for all aspects of the train’s operation. Conductors on commuter rails collect tickets. However, the Conductor for freight trains ensures that the cargo is picked up and delivered to the correct customers. The Conductor is responsible for keeping the train on time, keeping accurate records of passengers, freight, and safety protocols, as well as other duties such as decoupling trains or minor repairs in transit.

Are there still brakemen on trains?

They do not control trains’ breaks anymore. The modern brakeman acts as an assistant conductor.

  • Train Accidents and the length of Trains

When evaluating case train accidents, the length of the train plays a critical role. It is crucial to understand the safety concerns that go into any train’s operation. Although we are familiar with the importance of moving people and goods, it is also important to consider safety standards and the safety and health of those being transported. The length of the train will affect the stopping time and the speed of the train.

The US does not have any legal limit on the length of a train or how heavy it can be. A 180-car train measures approximately two and a half miles in length. The train can run more cars if it has more than one locomotive.

What is the average time it takes for a train to stop?

A freight train that is approximately a mile long and travels at 55 MPH could take up to a mile to stop. A passenger train consisting of 8 cars and a locomotive traveling at around 80 MPH would need to stop for a mile. Every freight train and commercial passenger train are different. This is due to the length of the train, the number of cars, the weight of each car, how fast it is moving, and the slope or decline of the track.

Accidents on Trains: Injuries

A collision with a vehicle or pedestrian could be catastrophic due to the train’s size, weight, and force. A moving train can also cause injuries to passengers and crew, but these injuries are less serious than those sustained in an accident with a vehicle or pedestrian.

These are the most common catastrophic injuries resulting from train accidents:

  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Amputations
  • Traumatic or severe brain injuries
  • Head trauma
  • Fractured neck injuries
  • Blindness
  • Organ damage


Sometimes, death can happen. If you are concerned about a loved one’s death, please contact Shiner Law Group today to discuss your possible wrongful death case.

Other injuries include:

  • Broken ribs
  • Broken bones
  • Neck injuries
  • Tears and injuries to the shoulder and wrist
  • Burns, scraps, and bruising

Both passenger trains and commercial freight trains owe customers and the public the greatest duty of care, especially when they are operating heavy machinery that can inflict debilitating injuries.

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