Relatively speaking, train travel is safe. Accidents are not as common as they are on Michigan's highways. However, train accidents are also a frightening thing for people to think about because of their complete lack of control; in a car, drivers feel in control, even if it's an illusion.
Of course, train travel isn't without its own dangers. Trains do derail and people are injured and even killed. According to the USDOT Region V Regional University Transportation Center Final Report, the top reasons for train accidents are:
-- Broken welds or rails. These accounted for 15.3 percent of the derailments. There were 665 such incidents, sending a total of 8,512 cars off the tracks.
-- Track geometry. This caused 317 derailments, impacting 2,057 cars. There was a steep drop from the No. 1 spot to the No. 2 spot, as this only impacted 7.3 percent of all derailments.
-- Bearing failure on a train car. This caused 5.9 percent of the accidents, or a total of 257 derailments. There were 1,739 cars involved.
-- Broken wheels on a train car. This caused 5.2 percent of all derailments, or 226 total incidents that involved 1,457 train cars.
-- Train handling, not including the use of the brakes. This caused 201 derailments -- 4.6 percent of the total -- and involved 1,553 cars.
As you can see, many of the accidents were simply caused by maintenance issues or mistakes made by engineers. If you're involved in a train crash and seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, you should know that you may have a right to compensation.
Source: USDOT Region V Regional University Transportation Center Final Report, "Analysis of Causes of Major Train Derailment and Their Effect on Accident Rates," M. Rapik Saat, accessed Jan. 26, 2017