We Must Be A Nation of Slow Learners.
Every three hours on average, somewhere in the country, a vehicle or a pedestrian is hit by a train. That’s eight a day … every day … day after day! And every damn one of them is avoidable.
An investigation is underway, but the crash of a Metro-North commuter train was made even more tragic—if that’s possible—by the unfolding details. It’s pretty clear that Ellen Brody, the 49-year-old woman driving the SUV, did just about everything wrong.
She entered the grade crossing and couldn’t continue across when the car in front of her stopped because of traffic.
When the wooden barriers came down on her car, she got out, checked her car for damage, and tried to physically lift them. Not possible … but she could have driven right through them since they are designed to break away.
Then, with warning lights flashing and bells clanging, she calmly got back into her car. One witness said she appeared to be trying to fasten her seat belt. Then, instead of backing up and out of harms way, she drove forward—directly into the path of the train.
Grade crossing accidents have been on the decline for several years, thanks to Operation Lifesaver, a joint effort of law enforcement, the railroad industry and government. A lot of grade crossings have been eliminated completely by creating over- or under-passes. At many others, barriers have been installed, and there’s an on-going public awareness campaign. Still, there were some 2100 accidents in 2013 with a death-toll of 288 people. And there is this grim notation: suicides are no longer included in these numbers, the rationale being that they cannot be considered “accidents”.
In Europe, when a train approaches a grade crossing, there are the usual bells and flashing lights and the barrier arms drop. But in many areas, steel plates pop up from the road making it impossible for a car to proceed. Of course, there are no at-grade crossings on any of the high-speed rail lines.
Just about everything possible has been done. Except, of course, finding a way to remove human error from the equation.