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South Florida train accidents a risk for pedestrians and motorists

Just shy of 7 a.m. on Jan. 18, a Florida East Coast Railway train engineer reported spotting a body alongside the track just south of Canal Street in New Smyrna Beach, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Cops believe the victim – a white male – was side-swiped by a southbound train late Monday night. Details determining the exact time and cause of death are still being investigated.

As our West Palm Beach injury lawyers noted in an earlier post to our South Florida Injury Lawyers blog, a full investigation into the cause of death or injury in a pedestrian-related Florida train accident is a critical step in protecting the rights of the injured.

In 2009, Operation Lifesaver reports, there were 1,916 reports of highway-railroad crossing collisions nationwide. More than 60 percent of them happened in just 15 states. Of those, Florida ranked 13th with 50 reported railway-related collisions.

Another 246 highway-railroad crossings were fatal. Again, nearly three-quarters of those deadly accidents happened in just 15 states. Florida ranked 7th with 10 deaths linked to railroad accidents. Florida also ranked 7th for pedestrian-railway crossing fatalities with 19 pedestrians killed by trains in 2009. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that overall in 2009, Florida railroad crossings were the site of 199 traffic crashes; 29 fatal and nearly 2,000 with injuries.

Pedestrian-railway crossing accidents remain the leading cause of railway-related fatalities at an estimated 500 pedestrian deaths each year. A three-year investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration revealed that the average victim of a pedestrian-railroad crossing death is most often a white male in his late 30s.

Operation Lifesaver offers some tips to help pedestrians avoid becoming a railroad fatality statistic:

~ First and foremost, even if you can’t see or hear one, ALWAYS expect a train is heading your way. Trains are fast and can approach from any direction at any time.

~ The safest place for a pedestrian is well off the track and well outside the overhang zone that extends at least three feet beyond the tracks on both sides. Tracks may appear inactive, but most times they are not.

~ Never try and beat the train. Even if you don’t slip and fall, it is an optical illusion that a train seems further away and to be moving slower than it actually is. A 100-car train traveling 55 m.p.h. requires 18 football fields in length to come to a complete stop.

~ Only cross at designated locations when you know the rail is clear to cross. Never walk over rail bridges or through tunnels or climb on or between moving or non-moving rail cars. Of course, never try to hop onto a moving train or jump from train to train if astride along a railway.

The Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Freeman & Mallard have been successfully and aggressively representing accident victims and their families in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Pierce /Port St. Lucie for years. Call us today to schedule a no-obligation appointment to discuss your case at 1-800-529-2368.

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