The Death Train Controversy:  Brightline fatalities and accidents on the Treasure Coast

Personal Injury Posted on Jan 11, 2024

Why the Treasure Coast is the latest victim of Brightline fatalities and accidents

Brightline fatalities and accidents on the Treasure Coast

We’ve all seen the recent headlines: “Brightline kills pedestrian in St. Lucie County,” “Brightline hits car in Stuart,” “Brightline causes death in Fort Pierce.” With the arrival of Brightline to South Florida, the high-speed rail service has been the source of controversy.  Since January 2022, Brightline has killed 32 pedestrians and motorists. Even more alarming, it only took six days from the start of Brightline’s new service route from Orlando to West Palm for the train to kill someone in St. Lucie County.

The Treasure Coast has been the site of several serious accidents and fatalities involving Brightline. While official reports indicate the high-speed rail service is not usually at fault, with suicides, drivers going around crossing gates, or pedestrians running across tracks to blame, the high incidence of Treasure Coast railroad accidents is concerning. In a few cases, vehicle malfunctions and faulty crossing gates have been the cause of accidents, raising the question of how we can make railroad crossings safer for Treasure Coast residents.

In this article, our Treasure Coast accident attorneys delve into the incidents involving Brightline in South Florida, exploring the causes, safety measures, and the ongoing efforts to address concerns.

Why is there a high number of Brightline fatalities and accidents?

Brightline, launched in 2018, is a high-speed rail service that runs between Miami and Orlando. The trains are designed to reach speeds up to 125 miles per hour, providing a faster transportation alternative.

Since its inception, Brightline has been linked to several accidents, including pedestrian fatalities and collisions with vehicles at rail crossings. The Associated Press reports that Brightline has 1 fatality for every 32,000 miles traveled. Critics argue that the high-speed nature of the trains, combined with the existing infrastructure, has contributed to safety concerns. Below are the two main causes of Brightline fatalities and accidents.

Main causes of Brightline fatalities and accidents

  • Pedestrian accidents – Some of the most tragic incidents involve pedestrians being struck by Brightline trains. Critics argue that the lack of proper barriers and education about the dangers of railway crossings has contributed to these fatalities. For example, multiple railroad crossings on the Brightline route do not extend over sidewalks. However, suicides are also a contributing factor.
  • Vehicle collisions – Brightline trains have been involved in collisions with vehicles at railway crossings. Issues such as insufficient warning signals, driver error, and inadequate safety measures have been cited as contributing accident factors. However, the leading cause is drivers trying to “beat” the train by maneuvering around the crossing gates.

The issue with the Brightline crossing gates

A large percentage of Brightline fatalities and accidents involve drivers trying to beat the train and going around the crossing gates. This extremely dangerous given the high speed of the train. In addition, many of the railroad crossings on the Brightline route are not designed nor intended for high-speed passenger trains. The route is using older crossings intended for freight trains. As a result, many of the crossing gates are slow to come down, do not provide enough warning in advance of the high-speed train, or do not extend into sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

In response to the higher number of Brightline fatalities and accidents, the company is completing a project to enhance safety at crossings along the new service route. The scope of work is different for each crossing and includes one or a combination of the following:

  • Exit gates
  • Flexible edge-of-roadway delineators and striping
  • Center-line delineators
  • Active message signs
  • Raised medians

A message to all Treasure Coast residents

The series of accidents associated with the Brightline has sparked important conversations about safety, infrastructure, and community engagement. As a result, it’s crucial stakeholders collaborate to find solutions that ensure the safety of both passengers and the communities.

As we previously stated, many of the Brightline fatalities and accidents are attributed to pedestrian and driver error. Therefore, keep these important safety tips in mind:

  • Never stop on the tracks– Never stop your vehicle on the railroad tracks, even if traffic is congested. If your vehicle stalls or gets stuck on the tracks, immediately exit the vehicle and move to a safe location.
  • Never try to “beat” a train – No matter how much time you think you have, never go around the crossing gates. Given the high speed of Brightline, which can exceed 100 mph, many people misjudge the time they have to cross the tracks.
  • Watch for multiple tracks – Some crossings may have multiple tracks. Wait until you can see clearly in both directions on all tracks before crossing. Trains may be coming from different directions or at varying speeds.

Injured in a pedestrian or vehicle accident on the Treasure Coast?

Call Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd immediately at 866-930-6435

If you have been involved in a pedestrian or vehicle accident in Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, or Okeechobee, contact the local law firm with the experience, expertise and tenacity to ensure you get the help, support and compensation you need and deserve. For more than 40 years, the injury attorneys at Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd have helped Treasure Coast residents recover from serious pedestrian and vehicle accidents.

Contact us today for a FREE case review by calling 866-930-6435

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