The Danger of Pedestrian Train Crashes

When we mention train safety, people often focus on the possibility of a collision between a train and a car or similar motor vehicle.  However, train safety is also about pedestrians.  As a developing story reminds us, pedestrian train accidents are a very real, often fatal, threat.  Our San Francisco train accident attorney stands ready to help when a pedestrian rail crash stems from the actions (or inaction) of a careless conductor, a risky corporate policy (formal or informal), or another negligent decision that puts innocent pedestrians at risk.

Muni Light Rail Car Hits and Kills San Francisco Boy

A tragic accident stunned San Francisco’s Ocean View neighborhood on Tuesday when a child pedestrian was hit by a Muni vehicle and died at the scene.  At the time of this writing, the facts were slowly unfolding and the story still developing.  The San Francisco Chronicle was reporting that a 12 year-old boy had been hit by a Muni light rail vehicle near San Jose and Lakeview avenues.  Officials told reporters that the boy was running through the crosswalk to catch another train to get to school at the time of the incident.  Muni service in the area was stopped while the medical examiner responded.

Remembering Another San Francisco Pedestrian Killed in Caltrain Tunnel in February

Back in February, another pedestrian died in another Bay Area train crash, this one with a tragic ironic twist.  On Monday February 23, a man died after being struck in one of the three Caltrain tunnels that lead out of the San Francisco to the Peninsula.  As The San Francisco Chronicle reported, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Caltrain-hits-kills-man-in-S-F-tunnel-day-s-6097757.php the pedestrian crash involved a train that was en route to pick up passengers who had been delayed because of an earlier accident in which a woman was killed after a Caltrain vehicle hit her car in Menlo Park.  The report noted that wanderers and homeless individuals are known to frequent the Caltrain tunnels and transit officers frequently patrol the area, often calling in to hold a train while the track is cleared.

Report Cites Increase in Pedestrian Rail Crashes

trackcurveIn August 2013, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch examined the problem of pedestrian railroad crashes.  Citing federal data, the paper found a 26% jump in the number of pedestrians fatally struck by trains during the first five months of 2013 versus the same period the year before (199 deaths in January through May 2013 versus 158 fatalities in January through May 2013).  The report notes that people walking on railroad tracks in the U.S. are deemed trespassers because the rail network is private property.  Nonetheless, people often use rail tracks as part of shortcuts.  This is one factor that likely contributes to a surprising fact – in every year from 1997 through the Post-Dispatch review more people were killed while walking on tracks than as occupants of vehicles struck at train crossings.  While total train accidents have been on a downward trend, falling 16.5% in 2012, the pedestrian problem is growing with pedestrian railroad deaths rising 7.5% that year.

Causes & Liability in Pedestrian Rail Collisions

Many factors contribute to pedestrian rail accidents.  Sadly, some of these deaths are likely suicides.  In other cases, the pedestrian simply failed to exercise due caution (see Operation Lifesaver for safety tips).  Still, far too often, the train company or one of its agents is at fault.  One threat is distracted conductors, including those using mobile communication devices while at the helm.  Other train accidents stem from a dangerous decision made in the train company’s corporate offices, such as declining to install safety gates.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a pedestrian rail accident and you believe someone else is to blame, call our San Francisco train crash lawyer.  Remember: Under California law an injured party can recover even if his/her own negligence contributed to the accident.  In those cases, the amount of the recovery will be reduced to account for the plaintiff’s share of fault.

Edited 5/13, 8:15 A.M. — In a terrible twist, between the time we wrote the post and it went live on the blog, a major train derailment happened on the East Coast.  From California to Pennsylvania, our thoughts go out to all those affected by this tragedy.

See Related Blog Posts:

Danger on the Tracks: The Risky State of the BART Rail System

Fatal Crash Involving Train, SUV in Oakland Adds Another Grim Statistic for 2014

(Image by Ari Herzog)