An Amtrak train headed to Chicago derailed yesterday, injuring at least ten people. The train collided with a semi truck at a railroad crossing in Michigan. The engine was overturned and all 68 passengers and five crew members had to be evacuated. The truck driver was also taken to the hospital. Thankfully, none of the injuries suffered were life-threatening.
At least one passenger indicated that the train was able to slow before it struck the tractor trailer. With two locomotives carrying six passenger cars, the train was far too heavy to stop completely in time. Two cars came off the rails, but only the engine overturned. The injury toll would have been far worse if any of the passenger cars tipped over.
There is no word yet on why the truck was on the highway crossing when the train came through. It is no surprise that the accident involved a semi, as one-quarter of all collisions between trains and vehicles involve commercial trucks. The government has passed several laws in an attempt to reduce these accidents. For instance, stopping or passing on railroad tracks is illegal. Federal law also requires truck drivers to stay in one gear while crossing railroad tracks to reduce the risk of stalling. As a train always has the right of way, the driver of the truck must explain why the truck was on the tracks, causing the derailment.
A collision between a semi truck and a train can be catastrophic. That no one died in this accident is a miracle. Hopefully, the cause of this accident will be discovered and proper steps will be taken to make sure this does not happen again.
Source: The Chicago Tribune, “10 hurt when Chicago-bound Amtrak train derails in southern Michigan,” 1 February 2012