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RememberSchiff

Amtrak crash takes Scout family (FL)

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16 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

A grandmother driving her two Cub grandsons to a state conservation area, a railroad crossing without gates or flashing lights or stop sign...

 

A very sad situation.

While this article does a lot of finger-pointing at the RR and the government for not having gates, lights, etc., it should be noted that cars don't end up in the path of trains without the driver having abdicated their part of the responsibility equation:  Stop, Look, Listen are still the basics that every driver needs to remember ALWAYS when approaching any railroad crossing. Just because there aren't gates or bells or whatever doesn't mean that a train might not be approaching, and in ANY contest between a car and a train, whoever in the car loses: even when it breaks our hearts to lose 2 young cub scouts.

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The crossing had a Yield sign ("CROSSBUCK")  and the train was required to sound its whistle at the whistle post and ring its bell through the crossing.  These latter two measures contribute less to safety in an era of closed windows, air conditioning, and entertainment systems.    Fortunately, the train did not derail, so the 200 passengers and the train crew were not injured.  

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I'm a railroader, and this breaks my heart. Please just pay attention, don't try to beat the train. Look both ways, whether there are lights, gates, wooden crossbucks, whatever.

Not only does this affect the family, but the crew on the train as well. We are helpless when this happens, we can't stop in time. The guilt you live with is overwheming.

 

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We have probably all blasted over tracks that looked empty or dormant and may not have been. There are so many abandoned tracks around that unless there is obvious signage it's easy to see how an out of area driver might not have realized it was an active rail bed. Where I live, there are ungated crossings, but they are utilized by sporadic freight trains that don't go that fast. Another tragic reminder to stay focused on the road, especially with kids in the car. 

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The papers in the Treasure Coast towns where my in-laws lived have long voiced concerns about the passenger lines and traffic. Part of it was precisely that the railroad had no interest in putting the best signage signals at every intersection -- of which there are many -- even though their reason for being is that these coastal towns have succeeded in drawing the most highly concentrated customer base for passenger rail traffic in the nation.

The industry is perfectly content with saddling automobile drivers and train crews with the guilt for these collisions.

There is no reason that every foot of rail could not light up in red in advance of the stopping distance for oncoming trains.

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You tube is full of such "accidents".  I use quotes because they can almost ALWAYS be prevented. Most unfortunate here. 

I teach bus drivers.  I make my students "repeat after me:  If it looks like a Rail Road Crossing, I will treat it like a Rail Road Crossing."   To wit, any vehicle classified as passenger bus, whether it carries passengers or no,  on approaching a Rail Road /Road crossing, must first put on the four way flashers, or the School Bus Flashers,  STOP (FULL stop, NOT "rolling stop") within 20 feet of the closest track,( but not where the crossing gate can close on the bus), shift into First Gear,  OPEN THE DOOR and LEFT WINDOW, listen, look, and when CLEAR and SAFE TO DO SO,,,, proceed in First Gear across the tracks without hesitation or other stopping , LEAVING THE DOOR OPEN. When clear of the tracks, CLOSE THE DOOR, turn off the four ways or School Bus lights, and proceed as usual. 

In every case, when the student driver takes the state license exam, there will be either a REAL grade crossing or painted stripes on the driveway with a crossbuck sign.  In one case , it was Washington DC, the testee was directed down a street that had THREE separate  industrial rail crossings.  He told me since the third one LOOKED like it was "abandoned", he ignored it.  Guess what happened?   We had to come back two weeks later to try again.  Different examiner, same route, he passed this time.  

Tracks do not forgive mistakes. They require one to NOT make them. 

Edited by SSScout
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On 11/26/2019 at 10:39 AM, yknot said:

We have probably all blasted over tracks that looked empty or dormant and may not have been. There are so many abandoned tracks around that unless there is obvious signage it's easy to see how an out of area driver might not have realized it was an active rail bed. Where I live, there are ungated crossings, but they are utilized by sporadic freight trains that don't go that fast. Another tragic reminder to stay focused on the road, especially with kids in the car. 

Not me. 

All railroads are assumed to be active. I stop every time. 

I cross at one of these unregulated crossings on my way to and from work every morning. There's a sign, but no lights or crossing arm. I come to a complete and total dead stop and look both ways TWICE before proceeding. I do occasionally see people blow through it and it freaks me out every time. I've only ever seen a train go down those tracks once. But once is enough. Plus, since I happen to be a railfan, I know that trains pass that way several times a day; just not usually during my commute times. 

I spent months working with an entire Troop of Boy Scouts to help them earn their Railroading Merit Badge, at the end of which time we took Amtrak from Portland to Sacramento and had a great trip utilizing both Amtrak and Lightrail systems. I required all the boys to demonstrate proficiency in understanding railroad safety before I'd let them sign up for the trip. They could have earned the merit badge without going on the trip, but they weren't going on the trip without me feeling confident that they would be safe. I didn't want the liability. I showed them videos from Operation Lifesaver as well as a video of a guy getting hit by a lightrail train because he ran in front of a stopped train which blocked the view of another train coming down the second track. 

I am also that person who calls out my friends when they post photos of themselves or their family members on or near railroad tracks. 

I have been working with Safe Kids USA for 8 years now, not specifically with railroad stuff but generally in injury prevention. I don't screw around with this stuff. I know too much about what can go wrong. 

I can't guess what went wrong that caused this grandmother to cross the tracks when it wasn't clear. Maybe she was distracted. Maybe she had a medical event. Maybe she just had terrible driving habits. But we can't get these kids back. And no, I never EVER blast over tracks assuming they will be clear. EVER. 

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Very good information. Thank you. In my part of the world there are many abandoned lines that have been turned into hiking trails but the old rails still cross the roads. Lulls you into non observance. 

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30 minutes ago, yknot said:

Very good information. Thank you. In my part of the world there are many abandoned lines that have been turned into hiking trails but the old rails still cross the roads. Lulls you into non observance. 

I suppose if I lived in an area where I knew there were lines that were decommissioned, and I knew where those crossings were in my own neighborhood, and they were appropriately marked as hiking trails, it might be a little different for those specific crossings; but I still wouldn't assume any OTHER crossing was completely out of service. 

Most active railroad crossings at least have a sign. That sign ALWAYS means there is a chance of a train. Even if it's rare. 

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