A 15-year review of railway-related deaths in Jefferson County, Alabama

Academic Article


  • A retrospective computer search of the records of the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner Office covering the 15-year period from 1981 to 1995 revealed 86 cases in which either a train caused death or in which a body was found dead by the tracks. The average age of the decedents was 39 years (range, 3 weeks-87 years). Men accounted for 88% of the deaths. The manners of death were as follows: three natural, 64 accident, seven suicide, six homicide, and six undetermined. Six decedents were found dead by the tracks, but death was not caused by a train. Six decedents were railroad employees who died on the job. In 47 cases, the decedents were trespassing on railroad property. Five trespassers were riding the rails, and 42 were pedestrians struck by a train. Motor vehicle collisions with trains claimed 27 lives - 19 drivers and eight passengers. All together, 45% of the decedents were intoxicated. Intoxication was greatest by far in individuals witnessed to have been lying on the tracks before being hit by a train. The nature of individuals riding the rails has changed in the past few decades. Freight trains today are being used by illegal immigrants as transportation within the United States. The majority of traffic fatalities occurred because the driver intentionally tried to beat the train to the crossing. These drivers were seldom intoxicated, and only two were teenagers. Lives of such impatient drivers might be spared by the installation of a crossing guard-rail that cannot be circumvented.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Davis GG; Bruce Alexander C; Brissie RM
  • Start Page

  • 363
  • End Page

  • 368
  • Volume

  • 18
  • Issue

  • 4