Despite Crashes, Amtrak Is Still An Incredibly Safe Way To Travel

Compared to other modes of transportation, trains are quite safe

May 13, 2015 at 4:55 PM ET

Grisly images from Tuesday’s Amtrak crash in Philadelphia would make even the most seasoned commuter feel anxious. Despite the recent string of crashes, however, trains are still one of the safest modes of transportation–and Amtrak is one of the safest railroads to boot.

The crash killed seven people and injured dozens of others as it reportedly barreled around a sharp curve at 100 mph with 238 passengers and five crew members on board.

Between 1999 and 2012, there was an average of 41,472 transportation fatalities annually. Of these, railroads accidents accounted for a mere 1.48 percent on average over the time period. It is important to note that this includes fatalities of railroad trespassers and pedestrian deaths at railroad crossings. Just passenger and crew deaths accounted for about 0.05 percent of all transportation deaths yearly on average, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

People are much more likely to get killed in or by cars and trucks. Take 2012 for instance—the most recent year data is available—there were 35,593 reported transportation deaths. Passengers in cars and trucks that year accounted for 63.2 percent of transportation deaths, not including pedestrians killed by vehicles. Comparatively, train passengers accounted for a paltry 0.01 percent of the deaths.

Of commuter railroads, the Metro North Commuter Railroad, the Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak are the safest. Sure, when you look at the sheer number of accidents on these railroads this might not seem to be the case but a much better measure of train safety is how the number of accidents compares to the number of miles traveled by the railroads. The trio claim the three lowest average accident rates from 2012 through February of 2015 of 0.9, 1.0 and 1.8 accidents per one million train miles traveled, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration.