Just remember: There will always be another train
Ken and I are daily Metra riders, so it’s worth noting that this week is Illinois Rail Safety Week (Sept. 13–19). Admittedly, rail safety is something that I, and likely most commuters, take for granted. For one thing, it’s easy to forget that rail accidents account for a huge percentage of fatalities and collisions in the United States. Over 2,000 auto-rail collisions took place in 2014, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, 269 of which were fatalities and 849 of which resulted in some type of injury.
Also in 2014, WBEZ’s Curious City ran a provocative story about Metra delays, so often considered by riders as groan-inducing inconveniences, as much more than a simple delay. Northwestern University’s Ian Savage discovered that, in 2014, rail accidents happened more often in Illinois than any other state in the country. Pulling info from the Illinois Commerce Commission from 2004–2012, Savage learned that 338 pedestrian fatalities occurred by train within a six-county radius of Chicago, 53 percent of which were deemed non-suicidal.
Being a city with one of the more dense populations in the country, Chicago ranks high on the list of metropolis’s combatting some significant statistics, as does the state of Illinois.
- During 2013, Illinois ranked 3rd in the U.S. in grade crossing fatalities with 16
- During 2013, Illinois ranked 2nd in the U.S. in trespass fatalities with 26
- In 2014, 134 crashes occurred at public highway-rail grade crossings, resulting in 55 personal injuries and 24 fatalities in Illinois
- In 2014, 48 trespassing incidents occurred in Illinois, resulting in 29 pedestrian fatalities and 19 others while trespassing on railroad property
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police has partnered with 286 state traffic safety agencies and private companies to bring greater awareness about rail safety to the public. This week, you’ll see several folks handing out pamphlets and SWAG with tips and best practices to make sure you’re as safe as possible. You might think their they’re obvious, but then again, that’s what awareness campaigns are all about: reminding you of those overlooked perils that can get you in trouble.
So remember: Look both ways before crossing. Always expect a train. Trains can run on any track, at any time, in either direction. Don’t get stuck on the track. Before you cross, be sure there is room on the other side to completely clear the tracks. Trains cannot stop quickly. The average freight train traveling 55mph takes a mile or more to stop. If you’re running late, it’s not worth it to run in front of a train – there will always be another train.
Info pulled from “Key Safety Tips at Highway Rail Grade Crossings,” courtesy of Operation Lifesaver.