Sunday, December 4, 2011


A remarkable study and policy paper released by the American Automobile Association (AAA) last month estimates a highway fatality costing $6 million each and $126,000 each injury.  The policy recommendation by AAA calls for a White House conference on highway safety establishing a safety goal of achieving "zero" fatalities.

The study using a Federal Highway Administration methodology for injury/fatality cost to society and standard evaluation of congestion costs found in urban America highway casualties on average more than double the costs of congestion, the latter touted as a major concern.  Cambridge Systematics performed the research and data analysis.  AAA supports focusing on reducing the annual 30,000 plus fatalities and 5 million injuries each year. 
(copy of news release and paper at: )
  The following letter addresses one example of how current policies--Vermont rail/highway crossing policy--assures continued injury and deaths with an easy conversion of all mainline crossings to gates and flashers able to cut over 90% of the casualty crash rates.

FINAL LETTER AS 802-343-6166
November 6, 2011
Burlington Free Press
PO Box
Burlington, VT 05401

Dear Forum:
The Northfield rail crash which critically injured a Norwich University student last week did not have to happen and exposes decades long refusal of the State—the Legislature and Agency of Transportation—and Vermont rail firms to address rail-highway crossing safety at a high level (Driver injured in Northfield when train hit his pickup, November 3).
The AAA released a study by respected Cambridge Systematics this month showing highway fatalities and injuries as the third highest cause of health-accident related costs to society, third on the list after cancer and heart disease. An average highway fatality societal costs $6 million and an injury $126,000 with the cost of highway casualties per year twice that of congestion, the report states. 
Rail-highway crashes drop over 90% when flashers with gates, apparently not in place in the Northfield crossing, are installed.   Across the Vermont border, New York State requires all railway crossings on rail passenger routes flashers with gates protection. The Northfield crossings all handle the daily Vermonter trains subsidized by the State and operated by Amtrak.   The Ethan Allen passenger train from Rutland to Albany operates through several dangerous Vermont crossings protected by either just cross bucks or flashing red lights while similar crossings when the train passes the New York border get full flasher with gates treatment under New York law.

It is long past the time for Vermont to require gated and flasher signals on all rail passenger service route rail crossings.

Yours truly,
Tony Redington
Norwich University graduate and former Vermont Agency of Transportation Policy Analyst

1 comment:

  1. Indeed Tony, we need to work on improving grade crossing safety.

    However, there is no relevance to grade crossing safety and the report that shows the really huge cost of highway crashes. There are around 40,000 car accidents a year (although this number has happily been declining). There are 400 or so grade crossing accidents a year (also a number that has been declining). Distracted and drunk driving is the major cause of accidents as is several ways of not following traffic laws.