FRA Can Improve Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety by Ensuring Compliance With Accident Reporting Requirements and Addressing Sight Obstructions
On May 3, 2007, we issued our fourth audit report on the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) activities to oversee safety at the Nation's highway-rail grade crossings (grade crossings). This report was a follow-up to the audit report we issued on November 28, 2005. We found that FRA can do more to ensure compliance with mandatory reporting requirements, including reviewing the railroads' grade crossing collision records and assessing civil penalties for reporting failures. We also found that FRA has no assurance that sight obstructions are addressed at passive grade crossings (those without automated warning devices) in most states. We recommended that FRA strengthen safety oversight by ensuring that the railroads comply with mandatory requirements to report each grade crossing collision to FRA's accident reporting system by: (a) developing and implementing an action plan for conducting periodic reviews of the grade crossing collision records maintained by each railroad, including promptly notifying the responsible railroads when unreported collisions are identified; (b) testing random samples of the railroads' grade crossing collision reports to determine whether the information is accurate, timely, and complete, including comparing such reports to those generated by local law enforcement agencies; and (c) issuing a violation and assessing a civil penalty each time a railroad fails to submit a grade crossing collision report in accordance with Federal requirements, on a consistent basis. Moreover, FRA should assess higher civil penalties against each railroad that repeatedly fails to report crossing collisions. We also recommended that FRA work with FHWA to develop model legislation for states to improve safety by addressing sight obstructions at grade crossings that are equipped solely with signs, pavement markings, and other passive warnings.