Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

March 4, 2016

Orange barrels on a highway

Rail crossing fatalities, crashes down in 2015

A line of cars waits at a railroad crossing.
The number of people killed in vehicle-train crashes at public railroad crossings in 2015 was the second lowest since 1970.

MnDOT points to safety improvements

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The number of people killed in vehicle-train crashes at public railroad crossings in 2015 was the second lowest since 1970, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The total number of crashes was also the second lowest since 1970.

Four people died at railroads crossings in 2015 in three separate crashes, according to information from the Federal Railroad Administration. A total of 32 crashes occurred last year with 19 reported injuries. An additional three people were killed in trespassing incidents. Transit crashes are not included in the numbers.

The number of fatalities has steadily been on the decline since at least 1970, when there were 56 fatalities and 392 crashes. In 2014, nine people were killed and 48 crashes occurred.

“The total number of crashes is far lower than 30 and 40 years ago, but it’s still too high. We must continue to work to make crossings safer and educate the public about the risks at crossings,” said Bill Gardner, director of the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations.

The decline in Minnesota doesn’t follow the national trend. In 2015, there were 1,780 vehicle-train crashes in the U.S., down slightly from 2014, but about the same from 2012 and 2013. There were 244 fatalities in 2015. An additional 511 people were killed in trespassing incidents.

Each year, MnDOT improves safety at grade crossings in the state by installing or upgrading 25 to 30 active warning devices.  

There are 4,030 public crossings in the state and 38 percent of them have some form of signalized crossing. The other crossings have devices such as stop or yield signs and crossbucks.

MnDOT administers the Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Safety Improvement Program to work with the state’s counties, cities, townships and railroads to install and replace signals, improve sight conditions and improve roadway geometrics and grades.

MnDOT also works with Minnesota Operation Lifesaver, an organization that educates the public about making safe decisions around tracks and trains.

"We applaud the efforts of our railroad, law enforcement and engineering partners whose efforts have had a tremendous impact on these reductions,” said Sheryl Cummings, executive director. “The fact remains that more than half of all railroad crossing collisions still occur at crossings equipped with active warning devices. By working together and continuing to expand our educational outreach efforts we hope to continue this momentum into 2016 and beyond to a time when we can bring the number of preventable tragedies to zero."

Cummings said motorists should follow these precautions at all railroad crossings:

  • Only cross railroad tracks at a designated crossing.
  • Whenever approaching railroad tracks slow down and be prepared to stop for an approaching train.
  • Always look for a second train before crossing railroad tracks.
  • Never use railroad tracks as a trail for hiking, snowmobiling or other recreation.
  • Anytime you see tracks, think train.

For more Minnesota Operation Lifesaver railroad safety information, go to www.mnsafetycouncil.org/OL.

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To learn more about funding Minnesota’s transportation system, visit Get Connected at www.dot.state.mn.us/getconnected