The Norfolk Southern train derailment Oct. 29 at the Venice Road in Sandusky has grabbed the attention of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is calling for the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct its own probe.
In our view, Sen. Brown is on the right track. Allowing the railroad to do its own investigation and file its own report to the FRA on why 17 Triple Crown trailers loaded with toilet paper and paper towels derailed and tipped over sets a bad precedent.
Granted, nobody was injured and the accident didn't involve hazardous materials, but Erie County residents deserve to know why the accident happened and that the many tracks and trains that dissect the county are safe and properly maintained.
Overall, train accidents and derailments have been on a steady decline in the state, according to FRA's Office of Safety Analysis data, with 11 percent fewer incidents this year from 2006 and 16 percent less accidents since 1988.
However, as Sen. Brown wrote to FRA administrator Joseph Boardman last week, the number of train accidents in Erie County are on the rise.
"Federal investigators shouldn't wait for a tragedy to investigate recurring incidents like this one," Brown said. "If there is a systemic problem behind those derailments, we need to identify it."
Even more alarming is the number of cars damaged or derailed involving trains carrying hazardous materials in the state have increased by 40 percent throughout the state since 1988.
That trend along with Erie County's propensity for train accidents point to trouble ahead on local rails and the potential for an accident involving more than toilet paper.
Think about that the next time you're stopped at a crossing gate.