Railway Safety

January 31, 1951

Report Outline
Rail Accident and Travel Safety Records
Recent Rail Wrecks and Remedial Action
Rail Safety Devices and Safety Legislation
Special Focus

Rail Accident and Travel Safety Records

Increase of Railroad Passenger Fatalities in 1950

Three major train wrecks in 1950, two on the Long Island Rail Road and one on the Pennsylvania, took the lives of 144 persons and sharply reversed a six-year downward trend of railway passenger fatalities. During the war, when railroad equipment and railroad workers were put to severe strain to move unprecedented traffic loads, the number of railway accidents, fatalities, and injuries mounted far above prewar levels. But the safety record began to improve before the end of the war and showed marked betterment in the postwar years.

Passenger fatalities fell from a peak of 278 in 1943 to only 37 in 1949, which was the smallest number for any year in American railroad history except the low-traffic depression year of 1932. Now there has been a sudden shift from one of the best to one of the worst accident years. When the figures are all compiled, they are expected to show that around 180 train passengers were killed in 1950—nearly a fivefold increase in a single year.

Despite the poor 1950 record, travel by rail is much safer today than it was a few decades ago; it is also relatively much safer than travel by other means of transportation. However, the fact that bad accidents still occur shows the need for continuing efforts to reduce further the hazards of railroad operation. The recent jump in passenger fatalities provides one spur to those efforts. Another is the prospect that the expanding defense program will greatly increase traffic loads and density and hence the risk of accidents.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oct. 14, 2022  Passenger Rail
May 01, 2009  High-Speed Trains Updated
Oct. 18, 2002  Future of Amtrak
Apr. 16, 1993  High-Speed Rail
Mar. 10, 1978  Future of American Railroads
Mar. 07, 1975  Railroad Reorganization
Jun. 20, 1973  Railroad Nationalization
Nov. 17, 1961  Railroad Subsidies
Aug. 24, 1960  Railroad Mergers
Jan. 01, 1958  Condition of the Railroads
Jan. 31, 1951  Railway Safety
Oct. 04, 1944  Railroad Freight Rates
Jun. 12, 1939  The Government and the Railroads
Apr. 21, 1938  Government Ownership of the Railroads
Dec. 07, 1937  Railroad Rates and Revenues
Jul. 17, 1937  Advances in Railway Passenger Service
Sep. 27, 1934  Railroad Rates And Federal Regulation of Transportation
Jan. 11, 1933  Railroad Receiverships and Reorganizations
Aug. 26, 1932  The Railroads and the Depression
Oct. 13, 1931  Wages of Railroad Labor
Jul. 09, 1931  Railroad Freight Rates
Feb. 14, 1931  The Railroad Consolidation Controversy
Sep. 19, 1927  The Problem of Railroad Valuation
Mar. 30, 1927  Railroad Consolidation and Prospective Legislation
Mar. 26, 1927  Principles of Railroad Consolidation
Mar. 08, 1926  Railway Labor Disputes Legislation
May 04, 1925  The Baltimore and Ohio Cooperation Plan
Sep. 12, 1924  National Railroad Consolidation and the Van Sweringen Merger
Aug. 14, 1924  Automatic Train Control in Relation to Railroad Casualties
May 28, 1924  The Condition of American Railroads