Crossing the Tracks to Get to the Other Side

Following Wednesday’s horrific train crash in Spain, The Washington Post has a fantastic rundown today of safety stats for railway accidents. The takeaway is that rail is pretty much the safest way to travel, along with airplanes.

“You’re 30 times more likely to be involved in an accident while riding in a car in Europe than you are while riding in a train”, writes Post reporter Caitlin Dewey. 


Photo: Flickr/Eolé CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

That’s the important bit, but there were some other really eye-popping takeaways as well. The first is that even though railway travel is safe, almost 4.000 people die every year in train accidents in the EU area. And almost none of them are on trains. They are people who sneak onto tracks, cars crossing the lines, people who fall onto the tracks …

But overwhelmingly, the fatalities in European train accidents are suicides. An astonishing 2.500-people-or-so jump in front of trains every year. So you can strike “train driver” right off the list of things I want to be when I grow up. That statistic really, really got to me.


Photo: Flickr/Dr. RawheaD CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Suicide is what happens when your psyche buckles, so you can’t really be expected to leave the world in a considerate way. But still, jumping in front of a train has to traumatise train drivers across the EU. 2.500 a year: surely a significant percentage of the EU’s train drivers have the experience of hitting a suicide some point in their careers 

In addition to the safety, you get: much lower environmental impact, denser civic infrastructure, collective and public works projects, a better travel experience and freight moved at lower cost. What are we waiting for? Time to upgrade the worldwide train network and downgrade air travel.

Programming note: I’m offline on vacation for a few days. I hope all my literally tens of readers who have come here over the past week and a half will still be here when I get back. Follow me on Twitter: @PunchingSomeone, or put me in your RSS feeds.


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