There has been a push for legislation in Florida concerning railroad safety after the passenger rail line Brightline was labeled as the nation’s deadliest railroad. Since beginning operations two years ago, the company has seen a growing number of fatalities, with reports of more than 40 people being killed by their trains.
Brightline is a privately-owned rail service that operates between Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida. While it is not considered a high-speed rail, the trains run at speeds of 79 miles per hour, much faster than that the ones people are accustomed to seeing. Brightline operates on the part of the Florida East Coast Railway and has been predominantly used by slower freight trains for the past few decades.
With an average of more than one person a month being killed on the tracks, Brightline has the worst death rate per mile of railroads in the country. The company’s response to this has been a public education campaign aimed at warning people to stay off the tracks, yet that has not proven to reduce the death toll.
While the company cites that 75% of the deaths on the tracks were suicides, others are questioning this data. The U.S. Department of Transportation released a study that shows suicides accounting for only 30% of all rail fatalities. Brightline states it reached this higher number after internal investigations and analyzed videos of the incidents captured on film by the train cabs.
Those advocating for increased government regulation of rail safety are calling for new safety measures in hopes of reducing this growing death toll. Such safety features involve fencing, pedestrian gates, pedestrian bridges, and pedestrian channeling. These features are included in a bill currently in the state senate that encourages the Department of Transportation to increase safety standards.
Brightline states that they have been working with communities to locate problem areas where they can upgrade fencing and install other barriers, but that doing so on a large scale would be costly for the company. Brightline estimates that it would cost $200,000 per mile to include the safety measures and could hurt its $4 billion expansion plan. The expansion plan would extend the rail north along the coast and west to Orlando, but Brightline believes that too much regulation may halt the plans and threaten the rail line as a company.
If you have any questions regarding this legislation and proposed plan, reach out to Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa’s experienced legal team. They could advise you on the next step if you want to pursue legal action against those responsible for the train accident injuries.