OGDEN (AP) Data from the Association of American Railroads shows Utah's rail system is on track for the safest year in decades.
Derailments dropped by nine during the first six months of 2007 a 39 percent decrease over the same period in 2006.
Utah is one of 33 states that saw a decline in train accidents, according to AAR data. The association cites human error and track issues as the leading causes of railroad accidents.
Railroad companies will spend roughly $9.4 billion in 2007 to make safety upgrades to infrastructure such as crossing signals and tracks as well as improvements to freight cars and other equipment, the association's CEO Edward R. Hamberger said.
"Safety is something very important, not just for employees but for people crossing the tracks," said William Clyburn, former vice chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. "These accidents are 100 percent preventable."
In Utah safety improvements are the result of combined public awareness campaigns, engineering and enforcement, said Vern Kesslar, coordinator of Operation Lifesaver Utah, a nonprofit that educates drivers.
Kesslar also credits the Utah Department of Transportation with adding newer, better signal crossings that alert drivers to oncoming train traffic. That includes new bells, lights, gates and curbs on railroad lines for the FrontRunner commuter train that will debut in 2008, he said.
Operation Lifesaver has supplied rail safety education to 15,000 high school students and about 2,000 bus drivers and commercial truck drivers over the past year.
The transportation board's Clyburn says that when it comes to safety, consistency counts.
"When you're consistent with training education, it catches up with you. That's when you start to see these declines," he said.