In early February 2023, 38 train cars derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The derailment prompted questions online about railroad safety, as well as claims about the number of train derailments across the U.S.
Chanel Rion, a correspondent with the One America News Network, tweeted, “On average, over 1,700 train derailments occur in the US per year. It’s common.”
On The Victory Channel, a conservative, faith-based news outlet, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) also cited that statistic, and said that equates to more than four derailments per day.
A VERIFY viewer asked us on TikTok if those numbers are accurate.
Are there an average of 1,700 train derailments in the U.S. each year?
Yes, on average, there are more than 1,700 train derailments each year in the U.S.
WHAT WE FOUND
From 1990 to 2021, there were 54,570 train derailments in the U.S. That’s an average of 1,760 derailments per year, or about 4.8 derailments per day, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).
On average, there are four deaths caused by train derailments each year.
The BTS began tracking train derailment data annually in 1990. Prior to that, the data was measured every five years. The BTS collects their data from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The FRA defines a derailment as any type of train accident where on-track equipment leaves the rail for a reason other than collision or explosion.
Derailments are most often caused by track conditions, human error or mechanical defects, the FRA said.
Railroads are required to report all derailments with total reportable damages exceeding $11,500 to the FRA. The FRA told VERIFY that the low damage threshold is low enough to apply to most events.