Train safety is everyone’s concern

Published 11:05 am Thursday, March 9, 2017

Given the tragic news out of Biloxi, we thought it was fitting to remind everyone of the importance of train crossing safety.

Much of this editorial was originally published when a train collided with a truck in Columbus last year.

Four people were killed in Biloxi Tuesday when a freight train smashed into a charter bus. The bus was apparently stopped on the tracks when the 52-car train, pulled by three locomotives, slammed into it, Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said.

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

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.

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.