OUR VIEW: Be safe at train crossings

Published 11:44 am Saturday, October 10, 2020

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Last Friday, a 23-year-old man suffered head injuries due to a train accident here in LaGrange. The man drove across the train tracks on Park Avenue and his pickup truck was struck by a moving train.

The police report from the incident indicates the driver was bleeding from his head, though he chose not to be taken to the hospital.

The incident also caused damage to the train, and the train stopped, causing traffic issues.

We’re thankful that the man involved walked away from the accident. But like other accidents involving trains in LaGrange, it was a scary reminder of how dangerous it is to try to beat a train, or otherwise not pay close attention when crossing the tracks.

We don’t know why the driver didn’t see the approaching train, as he told police he didn’t. But we do know that incidents like this happen regularly across the country.

According to Statista, a company that specializes in market and consumer data, in 2019, 937 people died as a result of railroad accidents in the U.S. And from 2010 through 2019, that number was 7.636.

According to the Georgia Department of Safety, on average, a car or person is struck by a train every three hours.

There are several train lines that run through the middle of LaGrange, and many places where they cross the road.

Train tracks are not a place to play with friends, hang out or stage a rustic photoshoot.

The consequences can be deadly. In June, another man, who was also 23, was killed on the train tracks in LaGrange. The conductor pulled the brake, but it took approximately a mile for the train to come to a full stop.

No matter how fast your car is, it’s always better to wait for the train to pass or to find another route. Making an appointment on time isn’t worth risking your life.

We can also feel confident in saying that your car stands no chance against a freight train. They’re simply too big. And due to the extraordinarily long braking distance required for a machine that heavy to stop, by the time a conductor sees a car or person on the tracks, it’s almost certainly out of their hands.

Train conductors can also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder when a train they’re conducting kills someone. So, reckless conduct on the part of drivers or pedestrians affects others, too.

You might get lucky, like the man last Friday did. But even he ended up with injuries and a totaled car.

Pictures of the incident illustrate the damage done to the vehicle.

So, as a reminder, practice safety at every crossing.

Not all of them have arms, so pay special attention to those flashing lights as you approach a crossing. Listen for the whistle. And please, don’t try to outrun it.