Behaviours of accident victims

Information regarding the behaviour of accident victims around the time of death was available from coroner files.


  • 56.2% of accident victims were pedestrians hit by a train and 43.8% of accidents involved a vehicle.
  • Accidents involving a vehicle are more common in New Brunswick (90.0% of accidents) and Saskatchewan (74.3% of accidents) and the rarest in British Columbia (17.8% of accidents).
  • Accidents involving a vehicle are more common with middle aged adults (57.1%) and older adults (57.6%).


Proportions of accidents involving a vehicle


Substance Use

Substance use is a major issue in train accidents (72.5% had substances in their blood at the time of death). The presence of a substance (alcohol above the legal limit or illegal substances in blood at autopsy) may explain in part the role of impulsivity and lack of judgement associated with intoxication or the effects of illegal drugs.


Behaviour around and on the tracks

In a prevention perspective, it is important to identify behavioural patterns of accident victims. Although information on the exact nature of the victim’s behaviour was not always properly detailed, there are some indications of recurrent behaviours (placed in order from the most cited to the least):


  • Driving across the tracks
  • Walking or running across the tracks
  • Walking on the tracks facing away from the train
  • Standing, sitting or lying on the tracks
  • Did not react when the train whistled
  • Went around a barrier
  • Walked along the track


Proximity to place of residence

People usually lived in the town where the incident took place (53.8%). However, about 21.3% lived more than 40km away. This could indicate that great familiarity with the tracks can prove dangerous as well as great lack of familiarity.

Distance between place of residence and accident site


  • Young children were usually living in the same town and adolescent within 1km of the place of death.
  • Accidents victims were known to be familiar with the tracks since it was indicated in 14,7% of the cases that they came there often.


Location on the railway network

Accidents occur more often at crossings (55.4%) than at other locations. It is important to note that yard accidents represent only 3.6% of accidental deaths. However, they tend to be more traumatic for railway employees than open track accidents because they more often involve co-workers.

Surprisingly, stations are rarely a place of accidental deaths, although they are the places with the highest interaction between trains and pedestrians.

 Railway accidents by location

Accidents occur more often in urban areas (66.3%) than in rural areas (33.7%), as do railway fatalities in general (72.2%). However, overall accidents are more common in rural areas (33.7%) than suicides (14.9%). Accident prevention should therefore specifically address these rural areas.



The number of accidents varies greatly by province, reflecting population density. Indeed, the number of accidental deaths is correlated with the population (Correlation coefficient: r= 0.714, p<.02)

Accidental deaths by province


However, the proportion of railway fatalities which are accidents is highest in Saskatchewan and Alberta and the lowest in Ontario, Québec, and British Columbia.