At least 15 people were injured late Wednesday morning after an Amtrak train derailed after colliding with a vehicle in Moorpark.
The derailment happened around 11:30 a.m. when the train hit a public works water truck that was on the tracks at a railroad crossing near Los Angeles Avenue.
Images from overhead showed three of the train’s seven cars disconnected from the track, tilting sideways but managing to stay upright.
Most of the injuries were minor, officials said, but the driver of the water truck was taken to a local trauma center for treatment.
While passenger trains on average tend to be one of the safest modes of transportation in the United States, derailments do happen and are actually more common than you might think.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) is a branch of the United States Department of Transportation that analyzes and compiles information about the nation’s transportation systems.
Since 1975, the agency has been tracking train derailments, as well as injuries and fatalities that have happened during train crashes.
While fatalities from train derailments are rare, derailments themselves are actually quite common.
From 1990, the first year the BTS began tracking derailments and injuries on a yearly basis, to 2022, there have been 55,741 accidents in which a train derailed. That’s an average of 1,689 derailments per year.
Those numbers might seem pretty staggering, but derailments vary in severity and only a portion result in injuries. During that same time frame, 5,588 people were injured when a train derailed, or about 169 per year. Even then, much of that data is skewed due to a 2002 derailment in North Dakota in which a hazardous materials spill injured more than 1,400 people, BTS said.
Additionally, both passenger and freight trains are included in the data set, so the risk of being injured in a train derailment as a passenger is even less likely than the numbers might suggest.
Deaths from train derailments are even rarer. From 1990 to 2022, 132 people died in train derailments. That comes to about 4 deaths per year.
The BTS data isn’t just limited to derailments, though. Collisions and other accidents are also included. Collisions tend to be slightly deadlier, but the data doesn’t include deaths at railway crossings, which account for the vast majority of deaths associated with trains.
Still, despite the semi-regularity of derailments, passenger trains are still a vastly safer mode of transportation compared to vehicles. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates 42,915 died in vehicle accidents in 2021 alone, and those numbers appear to only be going up with each passing year.
Your odds of dying in a train derailment are lower than your odds of dying in a car crash, boating accident or onboard a commercial airline, numbers from BTS suggests.
So while a newsworthy derailment might have you reevaluating your thoughts on train travel, you really shouldn’t be worried. It still remains one of the safest forms of transportation in the country and the risks of being injured or killed in a train accident are miniscule in the grand scheme of things.