Make train, track safety a priority

Published 9:50 pm Friday, April 12, 2019

A minor wreck involving a train and a van this week is a reminder that train safety must be a priority for motorists.

The driver of a van attempted to beat a train as the crossing arms descended and was struck Thursday in Wesson. The driver was not injured but the white Ford utility van was not as lucky.

“The guard arms descended and he tried to make it through, not knowing it was an Amtrak train coming,” Wesson Assistant Police Chief Garrett Starkey said.

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The driver was not injured. But it could have been much worse.

In Brookhaven and surrounding towns with tracks, it’s easy to get 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 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.