Historical Perspective


In 1908, for example, 4,500 rail workers died and nearly 88,000 were injured.

In response to the carnage taking place along the nation’s tracks, Congress enacted the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) that very same year.

“The Federal Employer’s Liability Act was designed to put on the railroad industry some of the cost of the legs, arms, eyes and lives which it consumed in its operation.”

— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

Left to their own devices, rail companies skimp on safety and cover up wrongdoing:

  • “track defects repeatedly went uncorrected; passenger trains were sent down defective tracks at speeds more than four times faster than were deemed safe; and engines and rail cars were dispatched in substandard condition.”
  • “the nation’s railroads have a spotty record of keeping black boxes in working order and have sometimes lost or erased their data.”

“Every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train”

“Railroad deaths totaled 893 in 2021, a 20% increase from the 2020 revised total of 744 and the highest since 2007…

…Nonfatal injuries totaled 5,781, a 4% increase from the 2020 revised total of 5,544. From 2020 to 2021, fatalities at highway-rail crossings increased 21%, while fatalities involving other types of incidents increased 20%.”          – The National Safety Council