The Train Always Wins.
I hate writing about this — about people being killed by trains — but it’s still happening and, unfortunately, the trend that saw a decline for a while seems to be reversing.
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s not even bring up actual railroad accidents like the collision between two freight trains that occurred a couple of days ago and killed two crew members. I’m talking about the two kinds of accidents that kill or injure “civilians”.
I keep thinking there has to be a better word than “accident” to describe these events. When some bozo drives around a lowered gate at a grade crossing, past the clanging bell, through the flashing red lights and onto the tracks where he’s obliterated by a train that could be traveling at almost 80 miles an hour … that’s no accident.
But incident won’t work; that trivializes the event. Mishap? Misfortune? Disaster? That’s closer. So is tragedy. I don’t think catastrophe works; that’s over the top … except for the driver and any passengers and, of course, for their families.
Anyway, the increase in deaths is from people who are hit by trains while walking on the tracks. (The railroads insist on referring to these people as “trespassers” because the tracks are private property. I also think they do it because it kind of de-humanizes the person who was killed.)
The unpleasant fact is, the number of people killed every year is going up. It was 451 last year and it looks like there will be even more in 2014. Many of these people are walking along the tracks with loud music being pumped through their ear buds. They can’t hear the train bearing down on them. The music is so loud, they can’t even hear the whistle! Many of them, of course, are suicides.
Remember: these are just the “trespassers”; there were about 2,000 grade crossing accidents last year involving cars and trucks, killing more than 250 people and injuring 900.
Unfortunately, almost everyone overlooks the other victims: the locomotive engineers. All are understandably shaken by these events and a few find it impossible to ever again climb up into the cab and perform the job they all love. Here’s an interesting and informative story about what the guys up in the “head end” go through.
The thing is, every one of these accidents is avoidable … didn’t have to happen. And that, surely, is the biggest tragedy of all.