For nearly two centuries, trains have connected people with work, play, family and friends all across our nation. In urban locations trains provide an easy, cost-effective way to get from place to place. And in suburban and rural areas, trains are the answer for traveling long distances in comfort and convenience. According to a report released on March 10, 2014 by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), a record 10.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in 2013, the highest transit ridership in 57 years.
The APTA estimates that people use public transportation approximately 35 million times each week day. Heavy use like this means that accidents and collisions involving people, cars and trains can – and do – happen. In fact, according to Operation Lifesaver Rail Safety Education, a person or vehicle is hit by a train approximately every three hours.
Accidents involving passengers riding trains are sometimes caused by human or mechanical errors and malfunctions. For example, in late December, a train in New York derailed, killing four and injuring dozens. Locally, many remember the devastating Metrolink train crash in Chatsworth, that left 25 dead and 135 injured. Owen, Patterson, & Owen successfully represented several victims who were seriously injured in the Chatsworth MetroLink train accident. The resulting investigation and recommendations by the NTSB lead to a recent announcement by MetroLink that it will soon become the first commuter rail network in the United States to implement collision avoidance technology that will help to avoid tragedies caused by human error.
While the NTSB does its best to protect rail riders, it’s important to remember simple safety precautions when boarding and riding trains such as staying a safe distance away from the platform edge, staying alert when stepping on and off the train and following all directional signs, markings and warning around train tracks, stations and on the trains themselves.
For more safety tips and information, and a great site for educating kids on do’s and don’ts when they are around trains and train tracks, check out the Operation Lifesaver website at www.oli.org.