Area counties last year recorded fewer crashes at rail crossings compared to 2006, according to a report issued last month by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
In all, there were 113 crashes at Ohio public rail crossings last year, including 33 injury accidents, the report says, and 41 counties that didn’t have any train-vehicular accidents.
But more than half of the crashes occurred at crossings with active warning devices.
“That’s still definitely a problem,” said Matt Butler, a spokesperson for the PUCO. “We work with programs like Operation Lifesaver to educate people about rail crossing safety. The message is don’t try to race the lights and gates. Don’t try to sneak under the crossing gates or around them. But people are still taking that risk. That’s also where the most train and vehicle traffic is, so that’s working against us.”
Crossings in Wood County proved to be the most hazardous last year - compared to crossings in Ottawa, Lucas, and Sandusky counties - with nine crashes resulting in two fatalities and five injuries. Only Cuyahoga County, with 13 crashes, two fatalities, and three injuries, recorded more accidents last year than Wood County.
There were two crashes each in Lucas and Ottawa counties and one in Sandusky County but there were no fatalities or injuries.
Wood County’s fatal 2007 accidents occurred in June near Pemberville and in October near Bradner. Both were on CSX tracks.
In 2006, Ottawa County led the state with three fatalities and eight crashes and Lucas County was fourth in the state with six non-fatal crashes that resulted in one injury. Two persons died as a result of an April 27 accident that year at a Norfolk Southern crossing at N. Nissen Road near Clay Center. Two weeks earlier, a person was killed at a Norfolk Southern crossing near State Route 2 at Oak Harbor.
Wood County was eighth statewide in 2006 with four non-fatal crashes and one injury while Sandusky County recorded three non-fatal crashes with no injuries.
Statewide, there were 108 crashes in 2006 – the lowest annual total on record – and 43 counties reported no crashes.
Since 1990, motor vehicle/train crashes at grade crossings in Ohio have declined by 66 percent and the number of fatalities has dropped by 77 percent, according to the PUCO – in spite of what the commission report describes as “a period of steady increase in the amount of train traffic.”
“We’ve made it a long way and hope to see that trend continue into the future,” Mr. Butler said.