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Railroad deaths in MN drop, second lowest since 1970

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The number of people killed in vehicle-train crashes in Minnesota decreased in 2015. In fact, the Minnesota Department of Transportation says it's the second lowest number recorded since 1970.

Altogether, there were 32 crashes and 19 reported injuries in 2015, the department reports.

Out of those crashes, four people in three separate incidents died at railroad crossings. Three more people were killed in trespassing incidents.

In 2014, there were 48 crashes and nine people died.

MnDOT says the number of fatalities has been on the decline since 1970. That year, there were 392 crashes and 56 fatalities.

However, Minnesota stands against the national trend. While MnDOT reports fewer crashes nationally between 2014 and 2015, the department says the number of crashes in the U.S. were about the same as they were in 2012.

Operation Livesaver – and organization that promotes rail safety – says the number of collisions between trains and vehicles in the country has decreased significantly since the 70s. According to a 2014 study, the number of crashes had decreased by 81 percent.

The transportation department attributes Minnesota's steady drop in crashes to state safety devices. Each year, MnDOT says it installs or upgrades 25 to 30 active railroad warning devices.

To put that into numbers, Minnesota has 4,030 public crossings. Thirty-eight percent of those have some form of signalized crossing. The rest have stop or yield signs.

Gov. Dayton has also pressed for increased rail safety in Minnesota last year. The governor addressed safety concerns for trains that carry crude oil. He also made improving the rails to prevent crashes and other disasters priority.

The department says transit crashes are not included in the numbers. More than a dozen people were hit by Twin Cities light rail trains in 2015, the Star Tribune reports.

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