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Rail Safety: Flawed Risk Perceptions Are Leading Human Factor in Railroad Grade Crossing Crashes; Metrolink Warns Motorists to Always Expect a Train

  : Tuesday December 14, 1999
Metrolink advises Southern Californians to use caution while driving during this winter season as most highway-rail crossing incidents occur during the months of December, January and February.
Recent railroad grade-crossing tragedies highlight the need for continued efforts to end the loss of life at intersections. The number of railroad crossing collision fatalities increased last year in California. Winter months remain the time when Southland motorists are most likely to be involved in these incidents.

Metrolink safety officials note that the stresses of the winter season and inclement weather can distract a driver from practicing common safety measures at railroad crossing intersections. The situation is complicated by the public's flawed perception of their risk of being injured or killed at railroad crossings. Unfortunately, this inattention can result in needless tragedy.

California statistics indicate that 32 collisions resulted in fatalities in 1998, ten more than in 1997. However, Metrolink's fatality incidents have declined over the last year. Metrolink has recorded one fatality this calendar year. Metrolink recorded a total of 13 fatalities in 1998 and 16 in 1997.

``We can help eliminate highway-rail collisions if we remember a few simple safety precautions and to always expect a train,'' David Solow, Metrolink 's Chief Executive Officer said. ``Any fatality is one too many.'' The challenge is to change the Southern California mindset to always expect a train.

Metrolink employees work every day to eliminate deaths and injuries at crossings. Research reveals that the public does not see trains as especially dangerous or life threatening. The majority of younger respondents had never even been on a train.

The report indicated that if warning signals are flashing and no train is clearly in sight, drivers assume it has left the scene or is still far in the distance -- some people estimated trains to be 20 miles away.

``We want Southlanders to know that they should 'Always Expect a Train' at the crossing. In fact, in the US, approximately every 115 minutes a train collides with a person or a vehicle,'' Solow said. ``A motorist is 40 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than in a collision with another motor vehicle because of the speed and power of the train compared with the vehicle -- there is no contest. The personal car fares as well in a contest with a locomotive as a soda can does when placed beneath the wheel of a car -- very little remains but a sliver of aluminum.''

The ultimate goal of Metrolink, through a partnership with the rail safety organization Operation Lifesaver Inc., is to eliminate highway-rail.

For rail safety tips visit the Metrolink Web site at or the Operation Lifesaver Web site at

SOURCE: Metrolink
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This file last updated: Tuesday, 14-Dec-1999 20:41:14 EST
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