POLITICS

Amtrak's Philadelphia Crash Defies Trend Toward Safer Rail Travel

05/13/2015 12:39 am ET | Updated May 14, 2015

WASHINGTON -- The Amtrak passenger train crash in Philadelphia that killed at least six passengers and hurt 146, eight of them critically, defies a trend toward improved rail safety. Rail accidents and derailments have dropped significantly in recent years, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FRA, responsible for administering federal grants to Amtrak, said there were 1,755 train accidents in 2014, 42 percent fewer than the approximately 3,000 in 2006. Derailments plunged to 1,241 from 2,197 during the period.

For Amtrak and commuter railroads, derailments dropped to 54 from 76 over that eight-year period. The number of accidents dropped to 130 from 204.

Train-related deaths have not followed the overall decline. In 2014, trains killed 813 people, including 226 on Amtrak and commuter railroads. Those numbers include, for example, people who were hit by trains while trespassing. "Trespassing and highway-rail grade crossing incidents account for 96 percent of all rail-related fatalities," the the FRA said last year.

Federal investigators planned to begin probing the cause of the Philadelphia crash on Wednesday. If past trends hold, the accident is most likely to be related to human error or track defects.

"While rail safety is at an all-time best, we owe it to the public and rail workers to do better," the FRA said.

That doesn't change the horror of a high-profile Amtrak crash, but the facts may make passengers a little less worried on their Wednesday commute.

This article has been updated to reflect how many passengers have been killed or injured in the crash.

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Emergency personnel walk near the scene of a deadly train wreck, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Emergency personnel walk near the scene of a deadly train wreck, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
  • Win McNamee via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed late last night May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least five people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, UNITED STATES - MAY 13: Rescue crews and investigators inspect the site of an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia on May 13, 2015. At least five people have been killed and about 50 others injured Tuesday night when a passenger train derailed in the U.S. city of Philadelphia. The train was heading from Washington to New York when it went off the track in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, UNITED STATES - MAY 13: Rescue crews and investigators inspect the site of an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia on May 13, 2015. At least five people have been killed and about 50 others injured Tuesday night when a passenger train derailed in the U.S. city of Philadelphia. The train was heading from Washington to New York when it went off the track in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, UNITED STATES - MAY 13: Rescue crews and investigators inspect the site of an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia on May 13, 2015. At least five people have been killed and about 50 others injured Tuesday night when a passenger train derailed in the U.S. city of Philadelphia. The train was heading from Washington to New York when it went off the track in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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  • Mark Makela via Getty Images
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