Maine Records Fewest Train-Vehicle Collisions in 20 Years

January 14, 2008

Maine recorded four crashes involving trains and motor vehicles in 2007, Maine Operation Lifesaver said. It was the fewest since the nonprofit railroad safety organization started keeping records 20 years ago.

The four crashes, one of them fatal, occurred at railroad crossings where a vehicle hit an oncoming or stationary train. There were nine such collisions in 2006 at Maine’s more than 900 public and private crossings, according to figures compiled from railroad officials and information from the Maine Department of Transportation.

The fatality occurred in August when a 60-year-old man was killed when a train struck his pickup truck at a crossing near his home in Paris.

“Though the news is good, even one collision between a vehicle and a train is too many,” said Fred Hirsch, Maine Operation Lifesaver’s state coordinator. “Still, credit goes to the railroads, the motoring public and state transportation officials for contributing to a relatively safe year.”

Railroads and the state have been working to make crossings safer by adding crossing lights and gates, improving motorists’ views down the tracks and educating the public about the potential dangers at railroad crossings, Hirsch said.

The decrease in crashes comes at a time when the number of trains traveling through Maine and the number of vehicles on the roads have been increasing in recent years. There has been a similar decline in such crashes nationwide.

Maine recorded no railroad trespassing injury incidents last year, although one person died in 2007 from injuries after being hit by a train in 2006. There were three such incidents that year, resulting in three fatalities.

Over the past decade, both in Maine and nationally, trespassing on private railroad property has become a bigger problem for railroads than incidents at crossings, Hirsch said.

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