I specialize in railroad law, so I come across sad stories like this one about pedestrians being hit while crossing tracks at least once each week. The details and timing of the accident involving two northeast Ohio (OH) teens on their way to high school and an Amtrak train were especially tough to bear since the accident meant one family would have to go through the holidays without a son. Another family would have to struggle to come to terms with a life-altering injury to a daughter.
I also considered how and why the accident occurred. The Amtrak train was moving at high speed through an intersection with a major surface road just outside of Toledo. While gates, red lights and a train whistle stopped vehicles from moving across the road-level tracks, the two teens could and did easily walk into the path of the train.
In 2008, some 720 Americans died while walking across or along freight, passenger and commuter rail tracks. When Norfolk’s light rail, the Tide, begins operating in late 2010 or early 2011, local residents will find themselves at higher risk than ever before for becoming pedestrians killed and injured by trains.
I’ve written before that Hampton Roads Transit, or HRT, needs to prioritize safety while constructing and running Tide trains. I will continue repeating that call for as long I continue to hear about deadly rail crossing accidents.