Local News

Growth, Recklessness, Lead To Train-Vehicle Accident Increase

Posted April 24, 2001 4:13 a.m. EDT

— For the first time in at least five years, the number of train-vehicle crashes rose in 2000, despite the state's efforts to put up millions of dollars of gates at unprotected crossings. Even more disturbing is people's willingness to weave around 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 decade ago, it ws just a small road to an asphalt 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 trying to beat the train. "They look to see which way the train's coming or how close, and they go around the gates," she says.

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

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

"Median barriers, for instance, reduce violations by 77%, and four-quadrant gates can decrease violations well above 80%," he says.

The new systems will help, but our best defense is our own driving: traffic deaths with trains are almost always teh fault of the driver.

"We can put all the enhanced devices we can think of at a crossing," says Worley,"but it comes down to the driver's behavior."