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Railroad and Rail-Transit Trespasser and Suicide Incident and Casualty Data Synthesis


According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis, approximately 70 percent of all railroad-related deaths in the United States are the result of trespassing and suicide (Federal Railroad Administration, 2017). In the European Union (EU), the comparable number is 89 percent (ERA, 2016). According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Guide for Preparing Accident/Incident Reports, a trespasser is defined as someone “who is on the part of railroad property used in railroad operation and whose presence is prohibited, forbidden, or unlawful.” (FRA, 2011) Trespassers in this sense do not include highway users involved in a collision with on-track equipment at a highway-rail or a pedestrian pathway crossing denoted with a U.S. DOT / AAR Inventory Number (e.g. 372133T). Trespassing incidents resulting in a casualty are required to be reported to the FRA using FRA Form 6180.55a.

Likewise, verified suicides are required to be reported to the FRA on the FRA 6180.55a reporting form. “Suicide data is data regarding the death of an individual due to that individual’s commission of suicide as determined by a coroner, public police officer or other public authority; or injury to an individual due to that individual’s attempted commission of suicide as determined by a public police officer or other public authority.” Suicides may occur at highway-rail crossings, as well as away from crossings. The FRA database contains a “flag” in the data field FRA57 to denote whether the suicide occurred at a crossing, or not. FRA suicide data is only available to the public in an aggregated format, in contrast to FRA’s trespassing data which is available to the public on an incident basis via the FRA’s Safety Data website. https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/publicsite/onthefly_download.aspx

FRA Safety Data includes reports from railroads that operate on the general railway system, including freight, intercity passenger, and commuter railroads. Rail transit systems that do not operate on the general railway system, including subways and Metros, light rail, and streetcars, report safety data to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The primary source of information and statistics on transit systems in the United States is the National Transit Database (NTD). Recipients or subrecipients of federal transit funds must report system, service and safety data on a monthly basis to the NTD (FTA, 2018). The NTD includes safety data for approximately 70 light rail, street car, cable car and hybrid rail systems. FTA data can be downloaded from the National Transit Database: https://www.transit.dot.gov/ntd/ntd-data

In order to quantify the true number of rail related trespassing and suicide incidents, it is necessary to combine data from both FRA and FTA. However, there is no easy way to combine these data together or to compare relative risk factors, because FRA and FTA use different measures for safety data.

The below shows the similarities and differences in FRA and FTA Safety Data Measures Related to Trespass and Suicide:

1) Crossing Collisions (in FRA); Other Vehicle Occupant (in FTA)

2) Trespassing (in FRA); Ped In Crossing, Ped Not In Crossing, Ped Crossing Tracks, Ped Walking Along Tracks (in FTA)

3) Suicide (in FRA); Suicide (in FTA)

4) Employee Duty (in FRA); Operator, Employee, Other Worker (in FTA)

5) No counterpart (in FRA); Bicyclist (in FTA)

6) Non-Crossing Collisions (in FRA); No counterpart (in FTA)

7) No counterpart (in FRA); Passenger, People Waiting or Leaving (in FTA)

Both FRA and FTA also provide exposure data to calculate rates of incidents by number of unlinked passenger trips, passenger train-miles of operation and employee hours worked.

The principal challenge in working with existing data from FTA and FRA is that there is no comparison between the data collected and made available by the two agencies so it is impossible to develop a true knowledge of the quantity of incidents and related casualties, as well as being able to use consistent exposure related variables to reliably calculate incident and casualty rates.


Conduct a review/synthesis of railroad and transit related trespasser (including suicide) casualty and incident data. Principal sources of data in the United States are the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. Principal sources of data elsewhere include the International Union of Railways (UIC); the European Railway Agency (ERA) and the European Cooperation in Science and Technology organization (COST).

  1. Identify all railroad and transit related trespasser and suicide incident and casualty data sources and the specific databases maintained by each source.

  2. Explore harmonization of FRA and FTA trespass and suicide data.

  3. Following the review of existing data sources and databases, propose ideal data sets and characteristics of specific items that should be ideally collected to quantify and describe railroad and transit related casualties and incidents.
  4. Develop a best practice reporting format.

This research can quantify the true number of rail-related casualties due to rail-related trespassing; including suicide. At present, there is no single source of rail related incident and casualty data so the true magnitude of rail-related casualties due to trespassing and suicide is unknown. Once the true magnitude of rail-related trespassing and suicide can be determined, it will be possible to quantify the benefits and costs of potential mitigation programs. Being able to accurately and comprehensively quantify trespass and suicide incident and casualty costs will assist in developing more effective safety programs and initiatives which will reduce the number of incidents and people injured due to rail operations.

Related Research:

There are a number of standard data sources available that house incident data specific to rail trespassing. The Federal Railroad Administration maintains the incident reporting and analysis system which provides simple summary data describing specific incidents. The Federal Transit Administration maintains the National Transit Database that provides system level summary statistics for FTA-defined providers, not including the traditional commuter rail systems that are under the purview of the FRA.

European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), (2015). Brussels, Belgium. Operation and safety of tramways in interaction with public space – Monitoring Progress Report. Retrieved from: http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/tud/TU1103 June 13, 2018.

European Union Agency for Railways, (2016). Paris, France, Railway Safety Performance in the European Union (TR-AB-16-001-EN-N).

Federal Transit Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. (2016). Rail Safety Statistics Report, (December). Retrieved from http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/RailSafetyStatisticsReport2009-FINAL.pdf.

Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. (2018). National Transit Database, https://www.transit.dot.gov/ntd/ntd-data.

Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. (2018). Accident Query. FRA Office of Safety Analysis. https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/Default.aspx

Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. (2011). FRA Guide for Preparing Accident/Incident Reports (DOT/FRA/RRS-22).

Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. (2013). Defining Characteristics of Intentional Fatalities on Railway Rights-of-Way in the United States.

Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. (2013). Demographic Profile of Intentional Fatalities on Railroad Rights-of-Way in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L04734#p1z25gD_ktrespass

Havârneanu, G. M., Burkhardt, J.-M. M., & Paran, F. F. (2015). A systematic review of the literature on safety measures to prevent railway suicides and trespassing accidents. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 81, 30–50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2015.04.012

Mishara, B. L., & Bardon, C. (2016). Systematic review of research on railway and urban transit system suicides. Journal of Affective Disorders, 193, 215–226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2015.12.042

RESTRAIL (REduction of Suicides and Trespasses on RAILway property), International Union of Railways, Paris, France, RESTRAIL Toolbox, http://restrail.eu/toolbox/, 2018.

Savage, I. (2013). Comparing the fatality risks in United States transportation across modes and over time. Research in Transportation Economics, 43(1), 9–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.retrec.2012.12.011

  1. Develop inventory of data sources

  2. Develop a catalog of current data items along with metadata

  3. Evaluate ability of current data sources and data items to adequately quantify the number and type of trespass and suicide incidents

  4. Propose an ideal data system including data items

  5. Identify potential management framework

  6. Identify any potential administrative and legal issues that might need to be addressed to implement the ideal data system


The implementation of rail trespass and suicide casualty data systems will be challenging given the disparate regulatory environment in which traditional rail operations, governed by the FRA and transit operations, governed by the FTA, exist. However, creation of an optimal data format will lead to identification of data management strategies enabling the integration of trespass and suicide data in a seamless manner.


This research is highly relevant and topical both from a subject matter and research method perspective. Establishing best practices in collecting trespasser and suicide casualty data will assist in developing robust mitigation programs saving lives so this research effort ties directly into the Zero Fatality vision of current transportation safety initiatives. From a research perspective, this effort provides an opportunity for data and transportation professionals to conduct “big data” type of analysis combining knowledge of transportation data content with data analysis/analytics and management skills.

Sponsoring Committee:AR080, Highway/Rail Grade Crossings
Research Period:6 - 12 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Joyce Rose, Pam Fischhaber, Steve Laffey, David Nelson
Date Posted:09/21/2018
Date Modified:10/01/2018
Index Terms:Trespassers, Railroad facilities, Data analysis, Suicide, Railroad safety, Transit safety, Pedestrian safety,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Pedestrians and Bicyclists
Public Transportation
Data and Information Technology
Safety and Human Factors

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