Raising awareness about train safety a tough job, officials say
Posted February 13, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Doris Pinnix was at a railroad crossing in Mebane on Dec. 16 when the gates came down and blocked her in.
An Amtrak train slammed into the minivan, killing Pinnix. Witnesses said they called to get her out of the car, but she froze.
“Depending on our ages, the mind doesn’t act as quickly as maybe it could,” said David Robinson, state director of Operation Lifesaver, an organization working to raise awareness of the dangers at railroad crossings.
In 2013, North Carolina had 55 collisions at railroad crossings, resulting in 7 deaths. State officials say they have been working for decades to make railroad crossings safer for drivers.
“We've really focused a lot on where we have passenger trains and higher speeds on railroads,” said Paul Worley, Rail Division director for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. “We've done a lot with enhanced devices, additional gates at crossings and medians.”
But safety devices won't protect people who do not pay attention to them.
“It's ultimately up to the driver to follow the law, to adhere to the devices, not to go around the gates,” Worley said.
Robinson said it comes down to one simple rule: “If you see tracks, you should always think a train is likely to be coming along at any minute.”
NCDOT is working to close 25 unnecessary crossings between Raleigh and Charlotte. It's also building bridges at 13 crossings, including at Morrisville Parkway and Hopson Road in the Triangle. Visit the department's website for more information.