Car vs. Train = No Contest.

At a rate that comes close to one a day, people keep getting killed and injured—mostly killed—when trains hit cars and trucks at grade crossings around the country. And in each community where it happens, residents get upset and demand that “something be done” about it.
OK . . . what?
Almost always the cause is carelessness or just plain stupidity. The media invariably reports these events as “accidents”, but they’re not … not when some bozo ignores the flashing lights and the clanging bells, drives around the lowered barricade, and gets creamed by a train before he can make it to the other side of the tracks.
It happened again a couple of days ago in Grass Lakes, Michigan. A guy named Eric Foote, 57, was killed by an Amtrak train when—let me quote the local news account—he “disregarded the warning signal, crossed the tracks and was struck by the westbound train”. We know that all the safety equipment—the gates, the lights, the bells—we’re working because there were no less than four witnesses.
In a train-car collision, the train wins . . . every time. An Amtrak engineer once told me that an equivalent to a train hitting a car would be running over a mailbox with your family car. Here’s some visual proof of that.


Foote’s car was smashed, knocked a hundred feet from the point of impact, and he was killed. The damage to the Amtrak locomotive was barely noticeable.
There are hundreds of thousands of grade crossing all over this country. And there are ways to minimize or even eliminate these occurrences: double barricades (that is, arms are lowered on both sides of the road and on both sides of the intersection) or we can construct underpasses or overpasses at these sites. The costs vary from expensive to really expensive.
I hate to put it in these terms, but I guess it pretty much boils down to how many tax dollars we’re prepared to spend in order to prevent careless or stupid people from killing themselves.