Every two hours there is a train accident in the United States, almost all of which involve some type of property damage. The two most common train wrecks are derailments, which are often caused by extensive damage to rolling stock and the railroad track, and train-car collisions at railroad crossings.
In 2011 there was a total of 11,319 railroad accidents and incidents in the United States, 669 of which were fatal. In California alone there were 84 accidents, which resulted in a total of 80 fatalities. Of those California accidents, 43 were caused by human error. More than 80% of all railroad crossings have insufficient warning signals and devices, and half of all railroad accidents occur at crossings that are inadequately protected.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis there are five train accident cause codes:
1. Track, roadbed and structure
2. Signal and communication
3. Train operation – human factor
4. Mechanical and electrical failures
5. Miscellaneous causes not otherwise listed