Review of Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Incidents 1986 – 2015: Trends and Potential Safety Gaps
Every year in the U.S., hundreds of individuals lose their lives at highway-rail grade crossings and even more are injured or otherwise involved in an incident at a crossing. Today’s crossing incident rates, however, are significantly lower than they were years ago. This report collected and analyzed 30 years of incidents at public, at-grade, highway-rail crossings as well as the inventory of crossings during that time. Between 1986 and 2015, the number of open, public, at-grade crossings in the country has decreased by over 60,000, and the proportion of these crossings which use active warning devices rose from 34 percent to 55 percent. These changes in the crossing inventory, at least in part, helped to achieve large improvements in safety, including a reduction in the number of incidents at crossings with a casualty by over 60 percent. However, despite these safety improvements, fatal incidents involving pedestrians at crossings are increasing. In fact, the linear models developed in this paper predict that given historic trends, by 2019 pedestrians will overtake vehicles as the road user with the most fatalities. These findings suggest that it may be worth investigating why pedestrians have not benefitted from the general safety advancements achieved at crossings.