Plenty of trains barrel through Chicago, most without incident. But according to Operation Lifesaver, in the last four decades, at least 22,000 individuals died in the United States in accidents with trains at railroad crossings.
Yet despite those statistics, the installation of lights and railroad crossing gates, as well as increased efforts at educating the public and additional timed traffic lights, have made railroad crossings safer. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2015, 244 people died at railroad crossings, a huge reduction from the 1,115 who lost their lives at crossings in 1976.
Last month, the FRA allotted almost $10 million to be divvied up between Illinois and seven other states — California, Arkansas, Washington, North Dakota, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The money is to be used for installing additional lights, crossing gates and other safeguards at train crossings on energy transportation routes.
In Illinois, there are over 7,600 public grade crossings. Of those, more than 300 have their crossing signals synced to traffic controls at adjacent intersections. The state also uses special sensors that transmit signals to trains when vehicles are stopped at crossings.
The Illinois Commerce Commission's rail safety chief predicted that over 100 additional rail crossings will have these vehicle detectors installed by the end of next year. The safety features are components of Illinois' proposed high-speed rail service for passengers traveling from Chicago to St. Louis.
The safety chief acknowledged that distracted and stressed drivers, together with drivers intent on beating the train, will still cause accidents at train crossings despite the additional safety features and advanced technologies.
If you are injured as a result of a train collision, it's possible that you have a potential cause of action to file suit against the persons or entities responsible for your injuries.
Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, "Deadly Railroad Crossings Challenge States," Judi Hasson, March 31, 2016