House unanimously adopts Matzie’s ‘Rail Safety Week’ resolution

Aims to raise motorist, pedestrian awareness about train hazards

HARRISBURG, Sept. 24 – Preventing motorist and pedestrian deaths and injuries from train collisions is the goal of a resolution the House adopted unanimously today, according to the resolution’s sponsor, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny.

Matzie said he introduced H.R. 482 – designating Sept. 22-28, 2019 as “Rail Safety Week” in Pennsylvania – to renew focus on the need for vigilance near tracks and trains.

“I’d like to be able to report that Pennsylvania is a state leader when it comes to rail safety, but unfortunately, the numbers tell a different story,” Matzie said. “Based on federal statistics from 2018, the commonwealth ranks sixth in terms of pedestrian trespass casualties – with 41 total deaths and injuries – and tenth in terms of the number of highway-rail grade crossing collisions, with 74 incidents.” 

 Matzie noted that although the number of vehicle-train collisions nationwide has dropped dramatically over the years – from more than 9,000 in 1981 to about 2,200 in 2018 – much work remains to be done, particularly to address pedestrian trespass incidents.

“Pedestrians sometimes fail to appreciate the degree of danger involved when they wander onto or too close to tracks, especially if they become distracted by music or talking on their cell phones,” Matzie said. “We’re trying to highlight the deadly nature of the risk involved and educate people about the consequences. When it comes to a preventable hazard, even one death is too many.” 

Nationally, highway-rail grade crossing collisions and pedestrian trespass incidents together account for more than 95% of all railroad fatalities. In the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train about every three hours.