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Growth, Recklessness, Lead To Train-Vehicle Accident Increase

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SMITHFIELD — For the first time in at least five years, the number of train-vehicle crashes rosein 2000, despite the state's effortsto put up millions of dollars of gates at unprotected crossings. Even more disturbingis people's willingness to weavearound crossing arms and flashing lights.

The state says that part of the problem is just increased traffic as the state grows.

In Smithfield, for example, the tracks cross the asphalt at Peeden Road. A decadeago, it ws just a small road to anasphalt plant and no one used the crossing except for employees of the plant.

Today, it is in town, and sees a lot of traffic.

From her friend's house in Smithfield, Linda Longenberger sees a lot of people tryingto beat the train. "They look tosee which way the train's coming or how close, and they go around the gates," shesays.

The state has taken notice of this trend and is taking steps to make defeating thegates more difficult.

Paul Worley, of the Department of Transportation Rail Division, says that new barriersare on the way.

"Median barriers, for instance, reduce violations by 77%, and four-quadrant gates can decrease violations well above80%," he says.

The new systems will help, but our best defense is our own driving: traffic deathswith trains are almost always tehfault of the driver.

"We can put all the enhanced devices we can think of at a crossing," says Worley,"butit comes down to the driver'sbehavior."

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