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Are car vs. train accidents becoming less common?

Car accidents involving trains are very often deadly, or at least so catastrophic that they leave people with serious injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that those in cars are about 20 times as likely to be killed in such a crash than in an accident with two automobiles.

The reasons are fairly clear. Trains cannot stop quickly or deviate from their set path. The amount of weight they carry behind them is far greater than even the largest motor vehicles, so simple physics dictates that those in cars and trucks are very likely to be hurt.

The good news is that these accidents have been generally trending down. In 1981, there were 9,461 accidents involving cars and trains. They resulted in 3,293 injuries and 728 deaths.

By the next year, there was a sharp drop down to 7,932 total accidents, while 2,637 people were hurt and 607 were killed.

In 1992, accidents had fallen all the way to 4,910 during the year, with 1,975 injuries and 579 deaths. A decade later, in 2002, there were 3,077 incidents, with 999 injuries and 357 fatalities. In 2016, preliminary statistics indicate that there were 2,025 accidents all year, with 798 injuries and 265 fatalities.

There are blips that go against the trend, like the 1,934 accidents in 2009, but that overall downward trend has continued for decades.

What remains true, though, is that serious injuries and fatalities are still extremely common when these accidents do happen. That will likely not change even as overall totals drop. When a loved one is hurt or killed, it's important for the family to know if they have a right to financial compensation.

Source: Operation Lifesaver, "Crossing Collisions & Casualties by Year," accessed May 16, 2017

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