How safe are Amtrak trains as transportation?


Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Train was derailed Monday afternoon, June 27, 2022, after colliding with a dump truck at an intersection northeast of Kansas City near the town of Mendon, killing several people and causing dozens of injuries.

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Amtrak train derailed in Missouri

An Amtrak train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago with more than 200 passengers on board derailed Monday afternoon after hitting a dump truck at a level crossing in northern Missouri.

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An Amtrak train crashed and derailed Monday in Mendon, Mo., after hitting a dump truck at a railroad crossing. Four people were killed in the crash, including three people on the train and one person in the dump truck.

Hospitals in Missouri had at least 150 patients as of early Tuesday afternoon.

With the accident in mind, some wonder how safe the trains are to travel. Here’s what we found.


Trains are statistically much safer than cars.

In 2020, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics recorded 40,867 total travel-related deaths, including on airplanes, in cars on highways, and on trains.

Here’s how it breaks down by mode of transportation:

  • Air: 349 deaths

  • Railway: 746 dead

  • Highway: 38,824 dead

Thus in 2020, there were more than 50 times more deaths on highways than on railways, and more than twice as many deaths on trains than on planes.

Of those 746 deaths on railroads across the country in 2020, the bulk were due to trespassers.

How many people die in train accidents?

Fewer people die in train accidents today compared to decades ago.

In 1981, there were 9,461 train accidents in the United States and 728 deaths from these collisions.

Forty years later, in 2021, there have been 2,148 train accidents and 236 fatalities.

In Missouri, there were 37 deaths and 89 injuries in total in crossing collisions between 2016 and 2020.

According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), crossing collisions and trespasser interference account for 95% of rail-related fatalities.

Those crossing collisions like Monday’s accident have dropped 39% from 2000 to 2020, according to the AAR.


It happened 29 years ago in Mobile, Alabama. The Sunset Limited plunged off a bridge and burst into flames, killing 47 people on board and injuring 103. It is now known as the Big Bayou Canoe rail incident.

The worst wreck in terms of overall injuries was the 1990 collision of an Amtrak train with a Boston commuter train that injured 453. No one died in this accident.

For live updates on the Amtrak crash in Mendon, Missouri, watch here.

This story was originally published June 28, 2022 3:10 p.m.

Joseph Hernandez is a member of The Star’s duty journalism team. A native of Kansas City, Hernandez is a graduate of Cristo Rey Kansas City High School and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously wrote for the Columbia Missourian and The Pitch.

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