Amtrak Derailment – Can I Avoid It? Are Trains Safe?

Amtrak derailment. Thankfully this is a is a vary rare occurrence, but the question is, how rare & should you be worried?

Amtrak Brief History

Amtrak began operating in 1970 and was originally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. They started by taking over the intercity passenger rail obligations on private railroads.

Amtrak grew from strength to strength introducing more trains & modernizing the American Railroad Network

Fast forward to today, 2020’s & you will find Amtrak servicing more than 500 destinations in 46 states & operating more than 300 trains each day! Mind you, in 1971 they were still operating 184 trains a day!

In conclusion, just say they have serious experience under their belt and safety is of the utmost priority.

amtrak derailment

What Is The Chance Of An Amtrak Derailment

As I mentioned, safety is a huge priority of Amtrak & safety training is make up of all employee training.

If there was 184 trains Amtrak Trains operating a day in 1971 and today in 2022 we have, say 300 for arguments sake. Firstly, let’s go half way between the two and say in the last 51 years, there has been an average of 242 trains operating a day!

Amtrak operates 365 days a year, so 365 days x 242 trains = 88,330 train shifts per year!
Next 88,330 train shifts per year x 51 years equal …. wait for it… 4,504,830 train shifts!

So, out the total 4,504,830 train shifts, there have been a total of

  • 73 crashes
  • 192 deaths
  • 4937 people injured

What Are Your Chances Of Being In An Amtrak Derailment

Your chances of being involved in an Amtrak derailment are very, very slight. Moreover it depends how often you catch the train, but let’s look at the data as a whole.

So if you could possibly catch every single Amtrak Train at every single time (impossible) your chances of being in an Amtrac derailment ar 0.00084%!!!

What Was The First Derailment?

The first Amtrak derailment occurred in the City of New Orleans. There were 11 deaths & a total of 163 injuries. The train derailed due to a seized axle.

amtrak derailment
Hard Working Train Axles

There has only ever been one other Amtrak derailment involving an axle. In 1984 there was a derailment due to a broken axle. Luckily nobody was killed, but there was 52 injuires.

Axles are made from EA1N grade railway steel and rarely ever break.

What Is The Most Recent Derailment?

The most recent Amtrak derailment occurred on September the 25th 2021. The Empire Builder which is an Amtrak long-distance passenger train derailed carrying 141 passengers and 17 crew. This happened near Montana, sadly 3 people were killed and at least 50 more were injured.

This derailment is still being investigated to find out the cause.

Amtrak’s Recent Safety System

Amtrak was the first major U.S based railroad to show serious commitment and introduce a Safety Management System. This is a forward thinking system which resulted in:

  • 26% reduction in customer accidents
  • 72% fewer serious employee injuries
  • 10% reduction in Federal Railroad Administration reportable injuries
  • 3% trespasser and grade crossing incidents

They also installed PTC systems on nearly all Amtrak owned track.


The risk of being involved in an Amtrak derailment or any train derailment these days in the United States is very, very low. Above all, we have one of the best railroad systems in the world and are lucky to do so.

Happy Travelling!