Rail lines crisscross many of Minneapolis, Minnesota’s communities. Drivers pass over them on a daily basis. Children, schools, nursing homes, and private residences are located near these rail lines.
According to the Star Tribune, fifty oil trains, carrying as much as one million gallons of crude oil travel through Minnesota every week. These trains are not small, either. Some of them carry as many as 100 tank cars and they pass through 39 counties, affecting countless residents and putting these residents at risk of train accidents and personal injuries. Many of the counties affected are densely populated. Were a train to derail, many families, individuals, and children would face injuries or death.
According to the Star Tribune, 15 serious accidents involving oil trains have affected the U.S. and Canada since 2006. Unfortunately, many of the companies transporting oil use old equipment, putting countless lives at risk. Companies have also pushed for secrecy, asking officials to not release data about the trains.
In light of recent accidents and derailments, some companies have been taking measures to improve training and safety. Canada Pacific, for instance, recently added stronger tank cars and increased safety training for personnel.
Yet, Minnesota cannot rely on oil companies to take the lead on safety measures. Government planning and inspection is important to ensure that personal injury risk and death to the general public is lowered. Minnesota will be increasing the number of rail inspectors who will be overseeing the risks at railroad crossings. The Minnesota Department of Transportation will take a look at which intersections are at the greatest risk and implement better safety measures, if necessary. The U.S. Department of Transportation also recently passed new construction standards for new tank cars.
Even so, Pioneer Press writes that Minnesota Legislators have until May 18 to implement a plan to improve oil train safety and ensure that drivers on Minnesota roads stay safe at railroad crossings. A whole town in North Dakota had to be evacuated recently after an oil train derailed, highlighting the real risk these trains pose to urban and more densely populated areas. Had a similar accident occurred in Minneapolis, the personal injury and tragic consequences would have been unthinkable.
Minnesota legislators have promised to implement a safety plan by the May 18 deadline. The plan may require railroads to pay higher taxes in order to make the plans affordable to local municipalities. Yet, Pioneer Press reports that legislators haven’t indicated a clear plan on how they plan to prevent derailments.
Given the current lack of oversight, what can drivers do to keep themselves safe? In order to prevent car accidents involving trains, drivers should obey all train traffic safety lights and become familiarized with the different kinds of crossings they can encounter. It is important for drivers to note that not all train crossings have guard rails. Sometimes the only warning is a light.
The Law Office of Martin T. Montilino works closely with personal injury victims to ensure that families and victims receive the compensation they deserve when accidents occur. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, or have been affected by an accident involving a train, contact our firm today.