Turkish Journal of Trauma & Emergency Surgery
Original Article Klinik Çalışma
Ulus Travma Acil Cerrahi Derg 2011;17 (5):440-444
10-year evaluation of train accidents
Tren kazalarının 10 yıllık değerlendirilmesi
Meltem AKKAŞ,1 Didem AY,2 Nalan METİN AKSU,1 Müge GÜNALP3
1Department of Emergency Medicine, Hacettepe University Faculty of Medi-
cine, Ankara; 2Department of Emergency Medicine, Yeditepe University Fa-
culty of Medicine, Istanbul; 3Department of Emergency Medicine,
Ankara University Faculty of Medicine, Ankara, Turkey.
1Hacettepe Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi, Acil Tıp Anabilim Dalı,
Ankara; 2Yeditepe Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi, Acil Tıp Anabilim Dalı,
İstanbul; 3Ankara Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi, Acil Tıp Anabilim Dalı,
Correspondence (İletişim): Meltem Akkas, M.D. Hacettepe University School of Medicine, Emergency Department, Sıhhıye, Ankara, Turkey.
Tel: +90 - 312 - 305 25 05 e-mail (e-posta): email@example.com
Otomobil kazaları ile karşılaştırıldığında tren kazaları daha
az görülmekle beraber, kazazedelerin hayatları üzerinde
ciddi etkisi vardır.
GEREÇ VE YÖNTEM
Hacettepe Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi Hastanesi Acil Klini-
ğine başvuran 16 yaş üzerinde, tren kazasına maruz hasta-
ların dosyaları geriye dönük olarak incelendi.
30 erkek, 14 kadın toplam 44 hastanın yaş ortalaması
31,8±14,3 idi. Yaralanmaların çoğu işe gidiş-çıkış saatle-
rindeydi. Yirmi ikisi acil servisten olmak üzere toplam 37
hasta taburcu edildi. Mortalite 7/44 (%16) saptandı. Revi-
ze travma skoru (RTS) ortalama 10,5 olup, ölenlerde 3, ya-
şayanlarda 11,9 idi. Ölüm nedeni 5 hastada majör vaskü-
ler hasar ve alt ekstremite amputasyonuna yol açan pel-
vik travma, 1 hastada torakal ve abdominal travma, 1 has-
tada kafa travması idi. Mortalite için primer risk faktörle-
ri; alkollü olmak (%100), başvuru anında kardiyopulmo-
ner resüsitasyon yapılması (%100), tekrarlayan intihar gi-
rişimi (%75), psikiyatrik hastalık öyküsü (%60) ve düşük
RTS puanı idi.
Tren kazalarının çoğunluğunu, yeterince hız kazanmamış
trenden kaza ile düşmeye bağlı oluşmuş minör yaralanma-
lar oluşturmaktadır. Buna rağmen tren kazaları %16 mor-
talite ve %37 morbiditeye neden olmuştur. Bu bulgular ya-
ralanmaları önleyici tedbirlerin geliştirilmesinin önemine
Anahtar Sözcükler: Tren kazası/mortalite/morbidite.
Although less frequent than automobile accidents, train ac-
cidents have a major impact on victims’ lives.
Records of patients older than 16 years of age admitted to
the Adult Emergency Department of Hacettepe University
Medical Center due to train accidents were retrospectively
44 patients (30 males, 14 females) with a mean age of
31.8±11.4 years were included in the study. The majority
of the accidents occurred during commuting hours. 37 pa-
tients were discharged, 22 of them from the emergency de-
partment. The mortality rate was 7/44 (16%). Overall mean
Revised Trauma Score (RTS) was 10.5 (3 in deaths and
11.9 in survivors). In 5 patients, the cause of death was pel-
vic trauma leading to major vascular injury and lower limb
amputation. In 1 patient, thorax and abdomen trauma and in
1 patient head injury were the causes of mortality. Primary
risk factors for mortality were alcohol intoxication (100%),
cardiopulmonary resuscitation on admittance (100%), re-
current suicide attempt (75%), presence of psychiatric ill-
ness (60%), and low RTS.
In this study, most train accidents causing minor injuries
were due to falling from the train prior to acceleration.
Nevertheless, train accidents led to a mortality rate of 16%
and morbidity rate of 37%. These findings draw attention to
the importance of developing preventive strategies.
Key Words: Train accident/mortality/morbidity.
Railway transportation is especially preferred in
underdeveloped countries like South Africa and India.
However, it is also a common transportation form in
developed countries due to its low cost. The fatality
rate is about 60 per 100 million passengers a year in
South Africa and 150 in India.[1,2] Railway-related ac-
cidents result in 18,000 injuries and 1,200 fatalities
annually in the United States. In Turkey, the approxi-
mate annual fatality rate is 213 per 100 million passen-
gers. This rate is higher than the rates in developed
and developing countries.
When compared with automobile accidents, rail-
way accidents are rare; nevertheless, they are morbid,
commonly debilitating and frequently fatal.[5-10] The
literature related to railway accidents is limited in our
country as in the rest of the world.
The Medical Center of Hacettepe University is one
of four hospitals located near the train station. Many
employees use this station for daily transport from
suburban areas since the station is located in the city
center. Due to the close proximity of the railway sta-
tion to our hospital, railway accidents and injuries are
usually admitted to this center.
The present study aimed to evaluate the demo-
graphic and clinical features of victims and the causes
and outcomes of train accidents.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
We retrospectively analyzed patients who present-
ed to the adult Emergency Department of Hacettepe
University Medical Center from January 1, 1998 to
January 31, 2008 due to railway accidents. All en-
countered patients were above the age of 16 years. A
total of 51 patients were admitted due to railway acci-
dents. The records of 7 patients could not be obtained,
and they were excluded from the study.
Railway accidents were evaluated in three groups
as: train-train collisions or overturned train, train-
motor vehicle collision and train-pedestrian collision.
Train-pedestrian collisions were grouped as suicides,
accidental train-pedestrian collision, stepping off a
train, and falling from a train. We also searched for the
velocity of the train in the patient records.
Demographic characteristics of victims, causes of
injuries, morbidities, and mortalities were evaluated.
Categorical data were given as frequencies and per-
Of the evaluated patients, 30 (68%) were male
and 14 (32%) were female. The mean (range) age of
patients was 31.8±14.3 years. Accidents occurred be-
tween 16:00 - 19:00 in 18 (41%) patients and between
06:00 - 09:00 in 9 (20%) patients.
The time elapsed from accidents to admittance to
hospital was <15 minutes (min) in 22 patients, 15-29
min in 17 patients and >60 min in 1 patient.
With respect to the causes of injuries, no relevant
case regarding overturned train or train-train collision
was determined. There were 2 cases (4.5%) of train-
motor vehicle collision, and 42 cases (95.5%) of train-
Of the train-pedestrian crashes, 26 cases were due
to accidental fall while the train was slowing down or
gathering speed, 8 cases were suicidal, 4 cases were
due to train-pedestrian collision while accelerating,
and 4 cases were due to jumping from train while it
was moving (Table 1).
Of the 8 suicidal cases, 5 jumped from the train, 2
threw themselves in front of a moving train, and 1 was
lying on the railways. Two cases were found to have
alcohol in the blood. Both had a history of psychiat-
ric illness and committed suicide. Apart from these 2
cases, 3 additional cases had a history of some psy-
chiatric illnesses. Of the 5 cases who had a history of
psychiatric illness, 4 committed suicide and 1 was an
Table 1. Causes of injuries
Causes of injuries Total (n) Total age Male (n) Male age Female (n) Female age
Train-motor vehicle collision
a) Accidental fall while train was
slowing down or gathering speed
c) Train-pedestrian collision while
d) Jump from train while moving
10-year evaluation of train accidents
Cilt - Vol. 17 Sayı - No. 5 441
Ulus Travma Acil Cerrahi Derg
442Eylül - September 2011
Four cases had a previous history of suicidal at-
tempt, all of whom had an accompanying psychiatric
illness. Two of them had selected the train in previous
Accompanying system/organ injuries included: 16
soft tissue injuries, 1 sternum fracture, 1 clavicle frac-
ture, 7 rib fractures, 4 hemothorax, 6 pneumothorax, 3
pulmonary contusion, 14 lower limb fractures, 3 up-
per limb fractures, 12 lower limb amputations, 2 upper
limb amputations, 2 intracranial hemorrhages, 5 ver-
tebral fractures, 8 pelvic fractures, 3 intraabdominal
bleeding, 5 major blood vessel injury, 4 maxillofacial
injury, and 1 renal injury. A total of 19 limb amputa-
tions were performed in 14 patients: 8 leg, 5 thigh, 4
ankle, and 2 finger amputations.
Although 6 of the amputations were subtotal, all
had Mangled Extremity Severity Score (MESS) of >7,
and therefore no amputated part could be saved.
The overall mean Revised Trauma Score (RTS)
was 10.5; 3 in deaths and 11.9 in survivors.
The mortality rate was 7/44 (16%). Cardiopulmo-
nary arrest was present on admission in 1, and 6 pa-
tients died within 3 hours of arrival. In all mortalities,
accidents were between 16:30-19:30. All deaths were
resuscitated. In 5 patients, the cause of death was pel-
vic trauma leading to major vascular injury and lower
limb amputation. In 1 patient, thorax and abdominal
trauma and in 1 patient head injury were the causes of
Causes of trauma in the mortal cases were train-
motor vehicle collision in 2 cases and train-pedestrian
collision in 5 cases (Table 2).
The remaining 37 survivors did not need resuscita-
tion. Eighteen cases required liquid or blood products
Alcohol intoxication (100%), cardiopulmonary re-
suscitation on admittance (100%), recurrent suicide
attempt (75%), presence of psychiatric illness (60%),
and low RTS were related with high mortality.
A total of 37 patients were discharged, 22 of them
from the emergency department. Of those 22 patients
discharged from the emergency department, 16 had
soft tissue injury and 6 had isolated bone fractures.
These 6 isolated bone fractures were as follows: 2
closed extremity fractures, 2 pelvic fractures, 1 ver-
tebra fracture, and 1 maxillofacial injury. Distribution
of patients according to departments of hospitaliza-
tion was as follows: 9 orthopedics and traumatology,
4 general surgery, 1 plastic and reconstructive surgery,
and 1 neurosurgery. Mean duration of hospitalization
was 15.7 (min 1-max 180) days.
Train accidents have a high impact in both human
and financial terms. Although train accidents result in
no serious injury in general, they may cause death or
high morbidity such as amputations of limbs.[7,11] In
the United States, they cost more than $300 million.
 Data regarding characteristics of train accidents are
scarce. In this study, we present our experience with
respect to the clinical features of train accidents and
their outcomes, with the hope to contribute to the lit-
In accordance with the previous studies, the ma-
jority of the accidents occurred during commuting
hours, and the majority of the victims were male,
implying that train accidents are closely related to
being en route to business or during rush hours.[4,5,12-
17] A previous study from our region also reported a
peak number of accidents during commuting hours.
Thirty-six cases (81%) were brought to the emergency
department within 30 min. Delayed arrival was mostly
due to transportation of victims from accidents occur-
ring at stations remote from our hospital. Along with
the improvement in ambulance services in our coun-
try during recent years, the lag time has considerably
shortened with respect to that in the past, when the
transportation of patients was largely dependent on
non-organized transportation with private vehicles.
Train-pedestrian collisions are less common than
other forms of pedestrian accidents such as pedestri-
ans-motor vehicle collisions on the roads. However,
they are more likely to result in death or irreparable
Table 2. Causes of death
Causes of death Death (n) Death age Male (n) Male age Female (n) Female age
Train-motor vehicle collision
a) Accidental fall while train was slowing
down or gathering speed
c) Train-pedestrian collision while
– 38±20.2 38±20.2
10-year evaluation of train accidents
Cilt - Vol. 17 Sayı - No. 5 443
damage, such as extremity amputations or paralysis.
[1,3,8,19,20] The kinetic energy transferred by a moving
train to a pedestrian is proportional to the mass and
velocity of the train. Therefore, an enormous amount
of energy is transferred to the body during impact, re-
sulting in massive injuries and a high mortality rate.
In accordance with the previous reports, falling from
a train was a common form of train-pedestrian colli-
sion in our study population.[13,18,19] Accidents of this
type mostly resulted in non-serious injuries, likely due
to their occurrence before acceleration. This observa-
tion was supported by the findings of Goldberg et al.,
who reported that train accidents do not always cause
considerable morbidity or mortality.
The injuries as described by previous studies were
mostly soft tissue injuries and uncomplicated bone
fractures.[14,21-23] The mean mortality rate in our study
was 16%. The highest mortality rate among the victims
of train-motor vehicle collisions, at 100%, supports the
findings of previous reports.[18,24] Meanwhile, the mor-
tality rate among suicide attempts was 37.5%. Train
accident-related fatalities vary between 12% - 75%,
irrespective of whether the cause is a fall or suicide at-
tempt. In our study, 4 of 5 (80%) suicidal cases had a
history of psychiatric illness as well as of previous sui-
cide attempts, suggesting a true suicide. Some intoxi-
cated cases might be misleadingly reported as suicide,
when in fact the fall may have been accidental.[1,15,18,19]
Mortality and morbidity related with accidents
usually correlate with MESS and Injury Severity
Score (ISS).[3,13] We also found that RTS was posi-
tively correlated with mortality and morbidity. Pelvic
trauma causing major vessel injury associated with
lower limb amputations was the major cause of mor-
tality in our study. Thirty-two percent (14/44) of our
cases underwent amputations. Traumatic amputations
are more common in train accidents than in motor ve-
hicle accidents. Lower limb amputations are encoun-
tered mostly.[3-5,11] Amputation rates in the literature
vary between 35% - 82%[3,5,16,23] and head, thorax and
abdominal injuries to a lesser extent. Amputations
associated with higher MESS could not be saved.
Alcohol intake is common in train accidents.
[1,5,7,13,15,17,23,25] and intoxication is related with a mortal-
ity rate of 80%. Although the frequency of alcohol
intoxication was low in our study, with a rate of 4.5%,
likely as a result of the low alcohol consumption in our
population, among the 7 deaths, 2 of them were intoxi-
cated (28%). Symonds identified alcohol as a major
risk factor, but he stated that alcohol contributed less
in railway-related suicides than in non-railway related
Authorities have been forced to take measures to
improve railway safety. Causes of train-pedestrian
accidents vary with social, geographic and cultural
backgrounds. Therefore, precautions to be taken need
to be addressed on the basis of these factors. Train-
pedestrian collisions can partially be reduced by envi-
ronmental modifications such as warning devices and
protection systems.[27,28] It was reported that unsafe
behavior may be unintentional due to errors in percep-
tion, knowledge or judgement.[27,29]
In fact, research on interventions to reduce train-
pedestrian accidents is very limited. Various authors
have proposed interventions such as limitation of pe-
destrian access to the rail corridor, public education
about risk and illegality, or reward or punishment for
safe and unsafe railway crossing behavior, as means to
prevent unsafe pedestrian railway crossing behavior,
but few have evaluated the efficacy of any of these
interventions.[1,11] Rail safety education in school and
punishment for every unsafe crossing were associated
with significant decreases in unsafe crossing compared
with that observed prior to any intervention. General
discussions about rail safety were not associated with
significant decreases in unsafe crossing.
In conclusion, mostly musculoskeletal injuries and
amputations are seen in train accidents. It should be
noted that these kinds of injuries could cause serious
morbidity and mortality. To prevent accidents, public
education should be continuous and preventive mea-
sures should be taken.
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