Railroad Safety:

DOT Faces Challenges in Improving Grade Crossing Safety, Track Inspection Standards, and Passenger Car Safety

T-RCED-96-114: Published: Apr 1, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 1, 1996.

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GAO provided information on the safety of highway railroad crossings, commuter passenger rails and adequacy of track safety inspections. GAO found that: (1) the leading cause of death associated with the railroad industry involved railroad crossing accidents; (2) about half of rail-related deaths occur because of collisions between trains and vehicles at public railroad crossings; (3) in 1994, 501 people were killed and 1,764 injured in railroad crossing accidents; (4) to improve the safety of railroad crossings, the Department of Transportation (DOT) must better target funds to high-risk areas, close more railroad crossings, install new technologies, and develop educational programs to increase the public's awareness of railroad crossings; (5) DOT plans are costly and will require congressional approval; (6) the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is unable to adequately inspect and enforce truck safety standards or direct transportation officials to the routes with the highest accident potential because its database contains inaccurate information; and (7) Congress has directed FRA to establish sufficient passenger car safety standards by 1999.

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