News
5:11 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

NC Sees Uptick in Train Fatalities

The number of train-related fatalities across the country is on the rise, including in North Carolina.

The NCDOT is looking at new technology that detects activity on railroad tracks.
The NCDOT is looking at new technology that detects activity on railroad tracks.
Credit by compujeramey via flickr

So far this year in the Tar Heel state, 15 people have died on the tracks, compared to 18 fatalities in all of 2012.

Three of the deaths were people in cars that ended up on the tracks, but most of the fatalities were pedestrians who were walking along the tracks.   

“We just have more activity. We continue to grow both in people and in highway traffic. Rail traffic is up as well. Also, drivers these days are more distracted by electronic devices and the world we live in,” says Paul Worley, director of the rail division at the N.C. Department of Transportation.

In March, an 18 year-old Thomasville High School student died after he was hit by a train on Main Street. Police believe Paul Anthony Taylor may have been listening to a MP3 player and did not hear the train or the horn. Train-related fatalities have also been reported over the past year in Burlington, and Rocky Mount.

The NCDOT hosted a rail safety summit in Chapel Hill Thursday to help reduce the number of these deaths in the Tar Heel state.

Officials with Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and CSX, as well as community leaders and law enforcement groups from across the state participated in the summit.

They discussed several ideas, including creating rail safety awareness campaigns in schools and improving communication and data sharing among local and state agencies.

Worley says new technology is also being considered.

“There are new technologies that are out there, especially in the area of detection of trespassers on the right-of-way, or activity on the right-of-way. We are going to be investigating the ability of using systems like that and working with Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to see if that is feasible along our corridor. We even have local communities who are interested in being part of a pilot project,” says Worley.

It's against the law to walk along a railroad right-of-way. Pedestrians are only supposed to cross at designated areas. Some Triad police departments say they are monitoring tracks more closely for trespassers.

Worley says the NCDOT is considering hosting another rail safety summit within the next year.