Pickup Driver Killed When Hit by Amtrak Train in New Kent Co., VA

An Amtrak train rolling from Richmond to Newport News, Virginia (VA), collided with a pickup truck in the town of Lanexa on Friday, February 25, 2011. The crash, which occurred at a grade crossing that had no gates or warning lights, left the pickup's driver dead. It is the second fatal rail accident along the tracks owned by CSX in the past six months.

A woman leaving a produce stand in Norge died on July 31, 2010, when a freight train slammed into her car at a private crossing marked only with a stop sign.

Photo by Jennifer Haynes/Tidewater ReviewPreliminary investigations into the Amtrak crash in Lanexa indicate that the train's engineer sounded a horn when approaching the unsecure crossing. The driver in the truck either did not hear those warning blasts or decided to ignore them and try to beat the train. In either event, the man lost his life. The photo at left shows all that remained of the vehicle following the wreck.

In 2010, 222 deaths occurred at rail crossings in the United States. The Federal Railroad Administration has ordered railroad companies and track owners to upgrade crossing safety by installing barriers and signals, as well as by clearing visual obstructions such as trees and brush along rail rights-of-way.

My colleagues and I, who specialize in providing legal advice to and representing victims of railroad crossing accidents, have long supported initiatives like those undertaken by the FRA. Progress on protecting members of the public at railroad crossing by informing
cars, trucks, pedestrians and cyclists that trains are approaching has been slow, however.

People in Virginia do need to slow down or stop at all crossing and look and listen for trains. At the same time, railroads should make it as difficult as possible for anyone to drive, ride or walk into the path of a speeding locomotive.

The risks of deadly collisions with freight and passenger trains at
unsafe intersections are most easily identified by experts in the rail industry, rather than by motorists or pedestrians. Issues like removing obstructions to sight lines can be studied and fixed by the rail companies. Amtrak, the National Passenger Railway Company, runs mostly on tracks owned and maintained by private corporations like CSX and Norfolk Southern (NS). Those super-profitable railroads should put a bit of their record earnings back into keeping folks safe.

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