Railroad Crossing Facts

ARE PLENTIFUL There are over 209,308 railroad crossings, approximately 129,326 intersect with public roads (FRA as of 7/29/14)
ARE LOCATED Railroad crossings exist in all 49 continental states, with the leading five states being Texas, Illinois, California, Kansas and Ohio

Year 2001: 3,237 accidents resulting in 421 deaths and more than 1,100 serious injuries
Year 2002: 3,077 accidents resulting in 357 killed and over 999 serious injuries (Far exceeding casualties in the commercial airline industry in an average year)
Year 2003: 2,928 accidents resulting in 324 deaths and over 998 serious injuries for a total of 1,322 total casualties
Year 2004:
3,063 accidents resulting in 368 deaths and over 1,081 serious injuries
Year 2005: 3,010 accidents resulting in 355 deaths and over 970 serious injuries
Year 2006: 2,911 accidents resulting in 366 deaths and over 1,005 serious injuries
Year 2007: 2,742 accidents resulting in 339 deaths and over 1,012 serious injures
Year 2008: 2,395 accidents resulting in 287 deaths and over 936 serious injures
Year 2009: 1,896 accidents resulting in 247 deaths and over 706 serious injuries
Year 2010: 2,004 accidents resulting in 261 deaths and over 810 serious injuries
Year 2011: 2,061 accidents resulting in 251 deaths and over 1,032 serious injuries
Year 2012: 1,960 accidents resulting in 235 deaths and over 913 serious injuries
Year 2013: 2,090 accidents resulting in 249 deaths and approximately 954 serious injries (as of 7/29/14

PRESSURE MOTORISTS Trains have the right-of-way at crossings. Motorists have to interpret warning signs, watch for dangerous conditions, determine if trains are approaching and estimate train speeds
CAN PRESENT UNEXPECTED HAZARDS Crossings may have sight obstructions (steep road approaches, trees, buildings, etc.) Warning signs may be missing or fallen, and railroad track may be rough and/or elevated
COMMONLY HAVE CROSSBUCKS The most common informational sign at crossings is the crossbuck—black letters in an “x” spelling “railroad” and “crossing”. About 47% of public crossings have crossbucks
MOSTLY DON’T HAVE GATES Nationwide, only 36% of public crossings have gates. Private crossings often have no safety protection devices
ARE SAFEST WITH GATES On a unit-of-traffic basis, gates are 80-90% more effective than crossbucks and stop signs


1. Number of Crossings Down 28%
The number of public railroad crossings has declined from 215,428 in 1980 to 155,370 in 2000. (Source: Federal Railroad Administration, Highway-Rail Crossing Accident/Incident and Inventory Bulletin, 1980, and Railroad Safety Statistics, 2000.) The United States Department of Transportation and the railroad industry encourage closings, and it is not unusual that financial incentives are provided for such closings. Eliminated crossings may account for about 28% of the decline in crossing accidents.

2. Number of Gated Crossings Up 111%
In 1980, there were only 16,291 public railroad-crossings equipped with automated gates and lights, compared with 34,296 such crossings in 2000. (Source: Same as 1. above.) This 111% increase in the number of gated crossings could explain at least 50% of the reduction in railroad-crossing accidents. This is because gates tend to be installed at the most densely-traveled crossings, and on a unit-of-traffic basis, numerous studies have shown gates to be 85-90% more effective than passive devices in saving lives. (Source: Various studies and Railroad Safety Statistics, 2000.)

3. Railroad Track Roadway Reduced by 32%
The miles of road owned by the freight railroad industry declined from 178,056 in 1980 to 120,950. (Source: Association of American Railroads, “Readi-Reference File” and Railroad Ten-Year Trends). This 32% reduction illustrates the downsizing of railroad track, including an unknown reduction in track-mileage operated. Consequently, in a number of instances, parallel track has been eliminated, resulting in fewer trains blocking railroad crossings and thus, safer crossings.

4. Shift of Railroad Track from Class I to Short-Line Railroads
Mileage of track roadway owned by Class I railroads (the largest railroads) declined from 164,822 in 1980 to 88,485 in 2000, while the mileage owned by the non-Class I railroads increased from 13,227 to 32,465 during the same period. (Source: Association of American Railroads, Ten-Year Trends and Profiles of the Railroad Industry; Interstate Commerce Commission, Statistics of Railroads in the United States, 1980. Non-Class I railroads operate about 30% of the nation’s railroad track, but account for only 12% of the fatalities from railroad-crossing accidents.


The United States Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), publishes an annual statistical inventory of railroad crossings and related accidents. Railroad Safety Statistics, Annual Report 2000 – available on FRA’s web-site -- reveals that: Inventory reporting is voluntary for both states and railroads. There are no legal requirements which mandate reporting. Furthermore, the “Forward” section of the FRA report states:

The completeness and accuracy of the information presented in this bulletin are primarily dependent upon the data collection and reporting processes of the nation’s railroads. The FRA conducts routine audits of these procedures, but does not have sufficient resources to perform comprehensive reviews of each railroad’s reporting procedures. We extensively review and edit the reports we receive and make inquiry when information is incomplete or inconsistent.

It is not possible to identify reportable events that were omitted from a railroad’s submission. Likewise, there may be instances where incorrectly reported information passes all reviews and is accepted. Although we attempt to be as vigilant as possible in both the editing and presentation of the accident/incident data reported, errors do occasionally occur

Finally, the United States Code of Federal Regulations (49,20903), states that:

No part of an accident or incident report filed by a railroad carrier under section 20901 of this title {49 U.S.C. 20901} or made by the Secretary of Transportation under section 20902 of this title {49 U.S.C. 20902} may be used in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report.



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