California Ranks Number One.
The other day I came across a news item about someone getting hit by a train. I’m afraid I don’t remember if the person was walking on the tracks or was in a vehicle, or whether he died or was just injured. And I don’t even remember where it happened. It’s not a daily occurrence, fortunately, but it happens often enough—I’ll guess on average once every couple of days—so we merely note these incidents, if we notice them at all, with a cluck-cluck and we move on to reading about the latest outrage coming from the White House. When it comes to grade crossing accidents, the people most affected are those involved—the victims and the locomotive engineers.
At any rate, the numbers are in for 2016 and California has the dubious distinction of leading the nation with the most deaths occurring while trespassing on railroad property. The grand total is 101. The brief blurb did not make it clear if that number included the morons who drive around the gates trying to beat the train. I am guessing it does.
Anyway, the number itself is really no surprise. After all, California is a very large, very populous state with God knows how many miles of active railroad track. And there are a lot of trains running on all that track: freight trains, commuter trains and Amtrak trains.
In acknowledging California’s record, Amtrak put out a list of “tips” for pedestrians and road users on how not to be killed by a train. (Is it just me, or does the word “tips” seem a bit namby-pamby for this particular subject matter?)
The fact is, however, that anyone walking on railroad tracks is trespassing on private property. The simple unvarnished truth is there are any number of ways people can get killed while on railroad tracks. Maybe they were jogging and didn’t hear the train because they were listening to music. Or they got caught on a bridge and the train hit them before they could reach safe ground. Maybe they were just standing too close to the track and part of the train clipped them. Whatever the reason, the simple truth is that all those deaths were unnecessary. Every damn one.
Finally, it never occurred to me until now that these numbers are broken down on a state-by-state basis and for all these years I could have been bragging that Hawaii leads the nation in railroad safety: zero grade crossing accidents and no fatalities every year.