Are Trains Safe?

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Since Wednesday’s tragic train crash in Spain, which killed 80 people, we’ve been wondering just how safe are trains? Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post looked into the numbers and, at least in the European Union, train accidents are few and far between. Between 2008 and 2011, Spain had 24 passenger fatalities, Italy had 23 and Britain had 38. And in the EU, the number of railroad fatalities overall has fallen since 2007.

In the United States, high-speed rail is not a staple of transportation. The Amtrak Acela that runs between Boston and Washington, D.C. is the fastest train in the country, and although it’s capable of going 150 mph, it rarely does. Its average speed is around 80 mph. That’s about as fast as people go on the two-lane Merrit Parkway that runs through Connecticut. Europe and Asia still reign in this area. But still, you might expect that because more people are riding on trains and even planes than in cars, for example, that more people die in them. But it’s not the case.

According to the Paul Waldman of the American Prospect:

In the U.S. in 2011, there were 32,367 road fatalities, 485 air fatalities, and 570 railroad fatalities. The raw number isn’t the proper measure though, because your risk is a function of how far you might go on each mode of transportation. The better measure, then, is fatalities per a given distance traveled. And there too, we see that train travel and air travel are both substantially safer than road travel.

Surprisingly enough, traveling by ferry is more dangerous than flying or traveling by train. See the graph here. And motorcycles by far are the most dangerous.

via: The Dish

Credit: EMILIO LAVANDEIRA/AFP/Getty Images

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