In many states, drivers transverse train crossings on an almost daily basis. While few enjoy confronting the possibility of train-motor vehicle crossing collisions, statistics indicate that there are close to 2,000 such collisions each year. For some drivers, passing through train crossings is a necessity, as the only way to reach their destination involves a crossing. Other drivers are able to select alternative routes that either avoid crossings altogether, or that involve crossing less dangerous points on the railroad.
Historically, drivers had no way of assessing alternate routes with regard to train crossing safety. Even if drivers had wanted to reroute their trip, their ability to assess which crossings were more dangerous was limited by anecdotal evidence and personal recollections. In its effort to change this, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) dedicated itself to developing a user-friendly, predictive model to assist drivers in assessing train crossing accident risks.
The FRA’s efforts ultimately resulted in the Web Accident Prediction System (WBAPS), an analytical computer model capable of generating reports that rank crossings based on the number of predicted collisions per year at that location. WBAPS reports include lists of collisions over a 10 year span, as well as contacts for further information. While the gross number of accidents at most crossings remains low, the WBAPS allows drivers to determine precisely the crossings at which collisions are more likely to occur.
Even if drivers must use crossings that the WBAPS indicates are problematic, drivers are better equipped to drive in these areas. When drivers know that a collision is more likely to occur in a given location, their heightened awareness may influence them to drive more carefully and defensively. In addition, WBAPS reports may also provide the evidence community members need to lobby the government and railroads to improve crossings by adding safety features, such as gates and additional lights.
Collisions at railroad crossings can be devastating, leading to lifelong injuries, emotional distress, and death. Recovering from such unfortunate circumstances requires the guidance and advice of legal counsel steeped in railroad injury law.