Demographic Profile of Intentional Fatalities on Railroad Rights-of-Way in the United States

One of the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) primary safety concerns is trespassing on railway rights-of-way. Some trespasser events end as fatalities which can be intentional or unintentional. This project reviews available trespasser data to establish a baseline estimate of intentional trespasser fatalities that occur on railroad rights-of-way and to obtain a basic demographic profile of the individuals involved. This project was especially valuable since at the time of data collection, railroads were not required to report trespasser fatalities and FRA did not collect trespasser incidents on railway rights-of-way that resulted in an intentional death. Two studies were conducted. Study 1 (June 1, 2006, to May 31, 2007) concluded that 268 trespasser fatality incidents were identified as intentional acts based on a review of railroad trespasser fatality records (RTFRs), state mortality systems, and media reports. During this 1-year time frame, 497 trespasser fatalities were reported by FRA. If no intentional fatalities are included in this FRA number (reporting guidelines do not require intentional incidents to be reported), then 35 percent of all trespasser fatalities during this time should be considered intentional. Study 2 (June 1, 2007, to May 31, 2010) concluded that 428 trespasser fatalities were determined to be intentional through an active analysis of RTFRs and state mortality systems from the period in question. Those intentional fatalities account for 24 percent of all trespasser fatalities reported during that time frame (1,341 FRA reported fatalities). For Study 2’s 3-year period, inconsistencies in data reported by railroads did not permit a precise baseline estimate of intentional trespasser fatality. It can be assumed that those estimates (although not precise) represent the minimum number of intentional deaths that occurred during the studies’ time frames, and thus provide an estimate of the overall percentage of railroad right-of-way fatalities. Results from both studies found that approximately three-quarters of the individuals involved in intentional fatalities were male, which closely mirrored the national gender distribution of suicides by other means. The age of the individuals who completed suicide on railroad rights-of-way tended to be younger than those who completed suicide by other means. No significant patterns were noted for time of day or monthly variation. Incidents were also examined by State of the participating railroads. The studies showed that Minnesota and Illinois consistently ranked among the States with the highest number of intentional trespass fatalities when adjusted by State population. When adjusted by miles of track within each State, New Jersey, California, and Florida consistently ranked among the highest.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Tables;
  • Pagination: 4p
  • Serial:
  • Publication flags:

    Open Access (libre)

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01493660
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: RR 13-36
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI, USDOT
  • Created Date: Sep 20 2013 4:31PM