The driver of a FedEx truck might be counting his blessings this week, following a heart-stopping Utah train accident with his truck. Officials say it’s possible that malfunctioning gates contributed to the train crash, although they are still investigating the situation. Luckily for everyone involved, no major injuries were reported.
Utah Transit Train Hitting FedEx Truck Captured on Video
The accident occurred on January 21, 2017, in North Salt Lake Utah when a Utah Transit Authority Frontrunner train collided with a FedEx truck that was traveling across a railway crossing. The train crashed into the first trailer behind the truck’s cab, tearing it apart and sending debris flying. Although the train was carrying 82 passengers, none reported any major injuries, although two minor injuries were reported on the train. The driver of the FedEx truck involved in the Utah train accident was also unharmed.
Footage of the accident was captured by North Salt Lake Police Department and quickly spread online.
Officials Investigate Cause of Utah Train Accident
Officials are looking into what caused the crash, though from the videos posted it is clear that the arms controlling the crossing were not in the down position as the train approached. A representative of the Utah Transit Authority told a CNN affiliate that severe weather conditions affected the crossing gates, preventing them from lowering. Lights and bells that also warn motorists of the approaching train did not activate properly.
“In the event of a power outage or lack of signal, crossing gates are programmed to default to the ‘down and active’ position as a safety precaution,” the agency said. “Preliminary information indicates the gates were affected by the severe ice and snow conditions at the time and were in the default ‘down and active’ position, as they are programmed.”
The Utah Transit Authority is looking into what caused the issue and noted that prior to the accident a crew was sent to the crossing after the gates remained in safety default mode for 12 minutes. The gates then went up approximately a minute before the Utah train accident.
Dave Goeres, chief safety and security officer for the Utah Transit Authority, said they have not discovered any problems with the signal system, which makes it difficult to understand why the arms went up before the crash.
“The agency has never had an accident like this before, and UTA is investigating why and how it happened to ensure it doesn’t occur again,” the Utah Transit Authority wrote. Crewmembers who were at the site are reportedly on administrative leave and are being interviewed to determine if human error could have been a factor.
Number of Collisions at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings Drops
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a highway-railroad grade crossing is one in which the highway and railroad cross at the same level (for example, there is no overpass for vehicles to take). Statistics tracked since 1981 show that the number of vehicle-train collisions like the FedEx and Utah train accident has decreased dramatically in 15 years. In 1981, there were 9,461 vehicle-train collisions, involving 728 fatalities, and 3,293 injuries. By 2015, there were 2,059 collisions, 244 fatalities, and 967 injuries. But such grade crossings are still a source of concern for officials. Rural train crossings are known to be an even more persistent train safety issue.
The FRA notes that the states with the highest number of grade crossing accidents are Texas, California, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia.
“Grade crossing and trespassing accidents are serious challenges to maintaining public safety,” said then-U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Every three hours of every day, someone is hit by a train in the United States and we must do all we can to heighten public awareness, strengthen enforcement efforts and pioneer new technologies to better secure public safety.”
Among the factors that can lead to a collision at a road-railway crossing are problems with the signal controlling the crossing, impatience on the part of the vehicle driver, and distracted driving. Although the majority of such accidents involve motorists attempting to bypass downed gates, there are situations such as the Utah train accident in which the measures designed to protect people do not work as expected.
Collisions at grade crossings can be deadly for people in vehicles and those on the train. A February 3, 2015 accident in Valhalla, New York, between an SUV and a train resulted in the train being pushed 1,000 feet and catching fire. That fire spread to the train. The woman driving the SUV and five people on the train were killed in the accident.
Train Accident Attorney
Baum Hedlund has extensive experience representing people who have been affected by train accidents. In addition to successfully resolving numerous train accident lawsuits, we have advocated for railway safety to prevent tragedies from occurring. Our attorneys can answer your questions and advise you on your rights. Contact us to discuss your legal options.