There are many things where we can be proud that Texas is number one. The latest data on train-car collisions is not one of them. On March 1, The Federal Railroad Administration announced the newest stats on highway-rail grade crossing collisions from the previous year, 2022.

Unfortunately, Texas came in #1. In 2022, there were 239 train-car collisions in Texas. This is way more than the #2 state, California, with 171 collisions. However, California had more fatalities, with 43 vs. 30 in Texas. There were 71 injuries in Texas vs. 38 in California.

Here in San Angelo, we are not immune to auto-train collisions. Just over three years ago, a train collided with an 18-wheeler truck at a railroad crossing on U.S. Highway 87 North. The collision resulted in the death of the truck driver.

There are several factors why Texas leads in train-car collisions.

Photo: Poor Judgement Via YouTube
Photo: Poor Judgement Via YouTube

1) Texas has a large land area and an extensive rail network. There are more than 10,000 public and private at-grade railroad crossings statewide.

2) Population growth and urban sprawl. As Texas grows, development moves outward, with more communities built near railroad tracks.

3) Texas is a leader in rail freight transportation Many freight trains travel through San Angelo, disrupting traffic nearly daily.

By far, the most significant factor leading to many train-car collisions in Texas is the one thing most of us can do something about-driver behavior. While the railroad industry in Texas is a leader in implementing safety improvements, including installing warning devices such as gates and lights, the one no safety device can counteract is lousy driving behaviors.

Many train-car collisions in Texas are caused by driver behavior. Some of the worst behaviors include ignoring warning signals, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or distracted driving. Approaching a railroad crossing is no time to be glancing at your phone.

Drivers should never drive around crossing guards, even if no train is in sight. Trains need many miles to stop. Getting into a collision with a train is usually fatal.

In San Angelo, with train tracks rolling right through the center of town, it is always a good idea to leave yourself enough time to get to your destination by accounting for the extra time you may need if you are delayed by a slow-moving freight train. If you arrive early, grab a cup of coffee. There are many great coffee shops to choose from.  It's better than not arriving at all.

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