Use caution when crossing train tracks

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Though Brookhaven has been fortunate lately when it comes to train-vehicle collisions, the possibility remains in a town where tracks run through downtown.

An accident in Columbus this week is reminder of how dangerous railroad crossings can be.  A city spokesman says a pickup truck skidded 62 feet into the side of a train, crushing the truck and killing the driver. City of Columbus spokesman Joe Dillon says part of the truck was caught under the train and that traffic on Main Street was stopped for five hours following the crash, which happened at 3:25 a.m. Tuesday,, The Associated Press reported.

In Brookhaven, it’s easy to get overly comfortable with trains and rail crossings since we see both regularly throughout the day. But that comfortableness hides a real danger.

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It’s not uncommon to see Brookhaven drivers navigating around the automatic barriers that come down as a train approaches. We regularly see pedestrians running across the tracks as a train nears, too. In both instances, they are putting their lives in danger, often without realizing it.

Because of their size, trains appear to be moving slowly, when in fact they usually aren’t. Also, when something is moving directly toward you, it’s hard to judge how far away it is. Those optical illusions make trains that much more dangerous.

There’s also the problem of stopping something as heavy as a train. Even if the engineer sees a vehicle on the tracks, he/she likely can’t stop the train in time to avoid impact.

According to federal statistics, a motorist is almost 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a crash involving another vehicle.

In 2015, there were more than 2,000 vehicle-train accidents in the U.S. More than 200 people died as a result and almost 1,000 were injured. While that number has decreased dramatically in the past three decades, that’s still too many accidents.

We encourage everyone to pay attention around trains and rail crossings, and respect the danger they pose.