⋅Stay off the Tracks!⋅

One of the most horrific and tragic jobs we are called to is a suicide or pedestrian accident along railroad tracks. Most of the time, the victim is very young, like the teenager who lost his life on the tracks we were hired to clean a few months ago near Tampa, Florida.

Trevor was about to turn 15.

He was taking a shortcut to his best friend’s house, which involved walking along the tracks for a few hundred feet before jumping off and taking a short path through the woods that led to his friend’s neighborhood. As Trevor walked around a deep curve with woods on both sides of the tracks, he could not see around the curve. He apparently didn’t hear the train coming toward him and didn’t see it until seconds before it hit him. The railroad company that hired us said that the engineer saw the boy as the train came around the curve, about a minute before impact, and blew the train’s horn.

He remembered that the boy was wearing headphones and, seeing the train, lurched sideways just as the train hit him.

When someone is killed by a train, engineers and other employees clean up the train at the next stop. The coroner’s office removes the body from the tracks but not the trauma left on the tracks. Body parts and blood can be carried hundreds of feet down tracks. These are almost always terrible, gruesome scenes.

After Trevor’s body was removed and we began the cleanup, we found trauma evidence not only at the impact site but for almost a quarter of a mile down the track as the train dragged Trevor’s body. It had taken the train just over a mile to stop.

The worst thing, however, was seeing the memorial that Trevor’s family and friends had constructed along the tracks.

That told us his family and friends had seen what we were cleaning up; what we would like to have spared them.

Statistics for Pedestrian Encounters on Railroad Tracks

These accidents happen far more frequently than you might think.

More than 7,200 pedestrians have been killed on railroad tracks since 1997. Another 6,400 have been injured. In 2013, 488 pedestrians died on railroad tracks in the United States. On average, 500 people a year are killed on railroad tracks in the United States.

Approximately every three hours, an individual or a vehicle is hit by a train in the United States.

Pedestrian fatalities on railroad tracks include people, especially teenagers, taking shortcuts or people simply out walking. Pedestrian fatalities also include suicides. What most people don’t know is that trains are permitted by law to travel at the posted track speed, which is set by the Federal Railroad Administration, even past neighborhoods and schools. Engineers generally blow the horn and immediately slow down when they see a pedestrian, expecting the pedestrian to get out of the way. By the time an engineer can distinguish a human being on a track, he is often too close to stop the train before impact.

Did you know?

  • It takes a mile or more for a train to stop.
  • Walking on or alongside railroad tracks is illegal. Pedestrians on or alongside railroad tracks are trespassing.
  • Wearing headphones or talking on cell phones while you’re walking on or near railroad tracks exponentially increases the danger of being hit.
  • Trains are not as loud as you think. Even when you’re looking and listening for a train, you may not hear it until it is too late. Hundreds of people every year do not hear trains in time to avoid being hit. Passenger trains and modern railcars are very quiet. If the tracks are in a wooded area, the trees further buffer the sound.

Pedestrian railroad accidents are completely avoidable. They don’t have to happen.

If you’re a parent, be aware of railroad tracks near your home or your child’s school. Talk to your children about the dangers of walking on or near railroad tracks and especially about the added danger of being distracted by electronic devices.

Encourage the young people in your life to observe railroad safety.

Better yet, encourage them to avoid walking on, along, or across railroad tracks altogether.

Railroad Safety Resources:






Ted Pelot Owner & President of Crime Scene Cleanup Company - Advanced Bio-Treatment