Local News

State Seeks to Stop Railroad Crossing Wrecks

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RALEIGH — The railroad crossing accident that killed Victoria Torres and her 12-year-old son last Saturday remains under investigation. People usually die in accidents like this because of carelessness.

Operation Lifesaver involves law officers and Department of Transportation workers who passed out safety literature at Bashford Road and Hillsborough Street Monday. North Carolina is trying to cut down the number of grade crossing accidents. Five people died last year and, so far this year, five more have died.

That would indicate that there is work is to be done.

An automobile can't win in a collision with a train. North Carolina has the second largest highway system in the country, and there's an average of one railroad grade crossing every three quarters of a mile in this state.

According to Pat Simmons of NCDOT figures, there about about 5,000 public and another 5,000 private crossings statewide. NCDOT has no jurisdiction over private crossings, but has a very active safety improvement program on the public side.

The double fatality Saturday took place at a private crossing. NCDOT and property owners are looking into building another road, then closing that crossing. The Smith street crossing in Clayton is public. Two people died there in a year. The town is planning a hearing for May 18th hoping to close the crossing.

Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs says there are more questions than answers at this point.

In 1997 trains collided with vehicles at crossings 96 times. More cars on the road and a push for more rail transportation brings an inherent conflict.

Simmons says opportunities for accidents are on the increase.

Stop signs like the one on Bashford Road recently seldom help. The familiar cross buck that reads "Stop, Look and Listen" doesn't even phase some drivers.

A training film analogy states that a car in an accident with a train has about the same chance as an aluminum under the tire of a car.

In other words, not much.


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