Recent Wrecks Belie Improving Rail Safety Record

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -

The nation’s railroads are safer than ever, despite recent high-profile accidents like this week’s fiery derailment in Maryland.

Derailments and crossing accidents have steadily declined nationwide even as businesses have come to increasingly rely on trains to move their raw materials and products.

The number of train accidents fell 43 percent to 1,712 between 2003 and last year, while the number of incidents at rail crossings dropped 34 percent to 1,960. And the total number of deaths declined 19 percent to 705 over the decade.

Railroads have been investing in their equipment and track, their employee training and in technological tools to help detect problems before they can derail a train. Fewer derailments means fewer delayed deliveries and less need for railroads to re-route traffic for hours or even days. That all helps the industry’s bottom line.