PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s happened again. Another crash at a railroad crossing.
This time, a CSX plowed into a stolen truck that was left on the tracks in Pasco County, south of Zephyrhills. No one was hurt.
This latest crash comes just weeks after a crash in Plant City, where six people died on their way to a party venue. That crossing had no lights and no barriers.
Those are just a couple of the recent crashes involving trains.
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi has been digging into the numbers and she discovered these incidents have grown more deadly.
Jennifer Cantu is the aunt of the sole survivor of the crash in Plant City.
“We want my nephew to make it through, everything to be okay so he’s able to tell us a little bit more,” Cantu said last month.
8 On Your Side wanted to know: Are train crashes becoming more frequent or deadly?
We turned to the Federal Railroad Administration or FRA. The agency tracks data on public rail networks like freight lines and passenger lines.
There are two major takeaways.
First, these incidents are not becoming more frequent.
In the past decade, there have been, on average, approximately 385 train crashes a year in Florida, and approximately 11,000 train incidents nationally.
But during this time, incidents have become more deadly.
According to data from the FRA, in Florida, in 2014, 34 people were killed, mostly at crossings or the mainline track.
But last year, in 2022, we had 65 fatalities, the most in the past decade.
Nationally, the number of fatalities hit a high for the past decade too.
929 people were killed in train incidents in 2022.
Why are the crashes becoming more deadly?
Michael Callanan is a former conductor with CSX and Amtrak.
“From when I was small, until now, this area, the whole state has exploded,” Callanan said. “It’s not like where it used to be where the train track is just running through a rural area.”
Other rail experts tell 8 On Your Side, in the past few years, federal funding for rails has increased.
There are more trains, more tracks, and more tragedies.
Daniel O’Connell has decades of experience working every job in the rail industry, from brakeman to engineer and manager.
He says when there’s a new line, there’s a learning curve for the public and that partially explains this increase.
Last month, the Biden administration announced 1.4 Billion to improve rail safety and boost capacity.
Meantime, a spokesman for FRA tells 8 On Your Side, in recent decades, the number of fatalities involving train accidents is decreasing overall.