Summary and implications for accident prevention

There is an annual average of 49 accidental deaths on the Canadian railway network, with a peak in 2005 (when 35 accidents occurred in Ontario). Accidents represent 46% of all railway fatalities.

Where and when do accidents occur?

Accidents are more frequent when weather conditions are more difficult. Accidents also appear to be most frequent during mid to end of the afternoon and on weekends

  • This weekend peak is in part explained by higher levels of alcohol presence in the blood of victims – people drink more on weekends.
  • Accidents are more frequent in Alberta, Ontario, and Québec
  • They occur more often at crossings and are more often seen in rural areas than suicides
  • Accidents victims are more often familiar with the tracks, because they live nearby

Railway accident prevention should target more specifically people who may be impaired (younger and older people). Since weather conditions can affect the number of accidents, signage could be adapted to poor weather (fog, snow, ice).

Who dies in railway accidents?

Railway accident victims are primarily male, are in a relationship, and are employed at the time of death. A significant proportion had chronic health problems, mental health, or substance abuse problems.

Railway accident prevention campaigns could use this information to target at risk groups or to increase awareness of health related impairment.

The behaviour of the person before the impact

Victims of railway accidents were either on the tracks with a car (43.8%) or on foot (56.2%), with large variations by province. Their behaviour prior to impact shows that they tend to misunderstand the danger associated with trains. Regular signage and information campaigns would help increase this awareness in more densely populated areas.

Alcohol and other drugs play an important part in railway accidents. Therefore more road surveillance and stronger limits to authorised alcohol blood content could decrease the number of accidents.

Since many accident victims are impaired due to alcohol consumption or may have trouble getting out of the way or taking heed to an arriving train due to their age (more victims are children and elders), it is possible that more dramatic and intense signals of the approach of an oncoming train at crossings may be warranted.