The number of people struck and killed by trains has been on the rise, with some concern that more people are choosing to take their own lives by stepping onto tracks.
The American Automobile Association, citing data from the Federal Railroad Administration, said fatalities near train tracks has been rising since 2015, and that such deaths are near a 10-year high. There is evidence that about half of all deaths involving people crossing the tracks are suicides.
“The specter of “suicide by train” is rearing its head across the region, and exceeds fatalities in crossing crashes in the area,” AAA said.
From 2011 to 2017, 30 people intentionally killed themselves by stepping in front of trains in Maryland, Virginia and the District. Nearly 90 percent of Metro stations have seen a suicide attempt.
Metro launched a suicide prevention program in 2011 after a spike in rail-related suicides. Despite that, two people attempt suicide on Metro tracks each month on average.
Meanwhile, there are still dozens of accidental deaths each year from trains striking pedestrians. Seven people have died this year in Maryland and Virginia after being struck by a train. While there were fewer than 20 in the region annually between 2012 and 2014, there were 23 such deaths in 2015, 34 in 2016 and 26 in 2017.
AAA noted that while train derailments and cars being struck by trains will generate headlines, most deaths near train tracks involve “trespassing incidents” in which people are standing on or near tracks as trains go by.
“Since 2005, over three-fifths of deaths in rail incidents have been pedestrian trespassers, and vehicle-train accidents at railroad grade crossings account for nearly one-third,” AAA said.