Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

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Re: Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

Postby theseaandalifesaver » Sun Nov 02, 2014 4:38 pm

I explored this area earlier this year. Like what's been mentioned, the fencing around the area is almost entirely non-existent. Gaining access to the old MBTA/B&M platform was almost too easy. And in the 10-15 minutes I spent there, I saw at least 10-15 people crossing the tracks as sort of a "shortcut" to gain access to the other side.

I'm sure this is something that happens way more often than you can imagine and isn't actually a big deal.
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Re: Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

Postby MaineCoonCat » Sun Nov 02, 2014 7:53 pm

RussNelson wrote:There are penalties for trespassing, and you can make them higher (e.g. New York), but that doesn't do any good unless people get caught.

The railroad crews must know where people cross, because watching the tracks ahead is part of their job. So for every fatality, there must be more near misses, and many more far misses. You can buy a GPS data logger with a pushbutton for well under $100. What if every engine was equpped with one of these with instructions to push the button whenever an employee sees somebody cross. After a few months, you would have a pretty good idea where all the hotspots are. Then you could correlate past fatalities with hotspots to see if they're causative.

I'm thinking that this would be a good idea, especially if it could be integrated with the (or a) forward looking video camera from the cab. I think it would be beneficial to mark the video recording at each instance with a timestamp and location data, at least for analysis if not law enforcement. I wonder if, where PTC is in use, the data could be obtained from it.

So then you engage in mitigation. Is there a hole in the fence? If it gets fixed, will people cut it open again? What kind of incentive do people have to cross illegally? Is it possible to remove that incentive? Can a few visits from Operation Lifesaver help with matters? Maybe post some signs with pictures of splattered corpses? Maybe a sign that says "The last date someone killed themselves on our tracks was 10/28/2014"?

Mmmmmmmmm... This gets a bit sticky as to who would assume responsibility for what. That hole in the fence, okay, who owns the fence? Is the fence mandated by law or ordinance? Who's going to keep checking the fence? How do they stop people from cutting it open? And (of course), who pays for it? Incentive to cross? That can be a quadrillion different things. Shopping Center, Amusements, Bar Room, Park, Convenience Store/Dépanneur/Bodega, School, Bus Stop, ATM, Pizza Shop, you name it and I think whomever is responsible for this piece would be hard pressed to move something like a shopping center.

Maybe it's possible to teach the trespassers how to cross safely? ("Eastbound trains won't blow their whistle here. You need to look down the line. Don't EVER climb between the cars of a stopped train -- trains can start AT ANY TIME, and you can't see trains on the other tracks. Westbound trains will blow their whistle, but you can't see them coming, so you MUST remove your earphones/headphones.")

Having worked in the insurance industry, this one really chilled me right down to my toes, and I'm sure that the lawyers in the railroad's legal department would, at best experience the same feeling.Image I hate to say it but I think the odds of hitting Powerball four consecutive times are probably far better than this ever happening..

Maybe trains can blow their whistle for hotspots just like they blow their whistle for legal crossings?

This would be easy enough BUT not doable in "quiet zones", and I'm sure there would be areas where the abutters would raise holy hell about the noise.

Seems like there are a lot of things that railroads could do if they could figure out what is causing fatalities without having to wait for a fatality analysis. And they don't need to save everybody, because people are fundamentally stupid, fragile, careless, and everyone believes themselves to be above average. All they need to do is start saving statistical lives. Over time that will translate into real lives saved.

Agreed, but how much of this responsibility will the railroads assume, and how much should rightly fall on them? How much of this responsibility rightfully belongs to municipalities, counties or states? And [!Political Ideology Issue Warning!] how much really belongs to the individual?

Food for thought though.

Just my 2¢ worth, adjusted for inflation..
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Re: Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

Postby RussNelson » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:13 pm

Having the deep pockets, the railroad is always going to be in line to be sued. Look at it this way: anybody killed by a train is on railroad property. "You knew people were crossing there in spite of your efforts to stop them; why didn't you put any effort into instructing people on how to cross safely?" would probably play well with a jury.
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Re: Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

Postby MaineCoonCat » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:45 pm

RussNelson wrote:Having the deep pockets, the railroad is always going to be in line to be sued. Look at it this way: anybody killed by a train is on railroad property. "You knew people were crossing there in spite of your efforts to stop them; why didn't you put any effort into instructing people on how to cross safely?" would probably play well with a jury.

I must respectfully disagree. I think enforcement of the No Trespassing law, efforts by Operation Lifesaver and (where prudent), attempts to maintain fences are far more likely to serve as legal defenses. Attempting "instructing people on how to cross safely" (at a location other than a "public crossing") is saying to a judge or jury that you knowingly permitted if not condoned the behavior (trespassing) that resulted in the accident. It would not surprise me if adopting this approach would also cause your liability insurance premium to increase to where it equals the amount of the coverage limit. Now, some "social service agency" could try this approach but at their own peril.
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Re: Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

Postby StevieC48 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:09 pm

Well Russ I have heard many a person struck and killed or permanent injured will attempt to bring legal action to get something for their loss or injury. Most don't successfully win because they got hit on private property and was at the time trespassing when they were hit.
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Re: Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

Postby The EGE » Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:18 am

Instead of jumping to always blaming the trespassers, consider the reasons why people cut across railroad tracks: it's quicker and faster, and sometimes it's probably on average safer than alternate routes. Going through that path where the girl was struck saves a mile of walking versus South Union Street or Andover Street. (only eight tenths, if you're willing to cut down a grassy embankment, which satellite views show some people do.)

Even at a busy location at Andover, there's at most 5-10 trains per hour at peak times. Whether it actually is or not, it probably feels safer crossing those tracks than a busy street. (Ever crossed the street outside Lowell station? That's a harrowing experience.) There is good visibility on both sides of the crossing, there are a limited number of trains, and they do things like following strict speed limits that car drivers don't do. So for a local, crossing the tracks there does not feel like a dangerous thing to do, and no amount of "scared straight" speeches is going to change that.

There is nothing inherently unsafe about pedestrians crossing active railroad tracks. Ayer, North Leominster, Wilmington, Greenwood, and Bradford all require crossing both tracks at an unprotected non-road grade crossing to reach one of the platforms. Braintree requires crossing one platform and one yard track. Pride's Crossing, Lincoln, Newtonville, West Newton, Auburndale (and until recently Yawkey and Attleboro) require standing on one track to reach trains on the other track. And a huge number of other stations have pedestrian crossings, many of which are necessary unless you want to walk substantial distances on streets. Many of those tracks have expresses that go through the stations at speed. At other places, even faster crossings are allowed - Martin State Airport station north of Baltimore requires crossing three tracks to get to trains on the fourth. The middle tracks there have Acelas at 125mph.

So when you have locations that there is natural demand for a crossing, you have three options. You can pretend that people are crossing merely because they can, and try to stop them from crossing, which is never going to be absolutely effective. Not even when you resort to some pretty extreme measures:

Image

Or, you can recognize that they are crossing there because they see it as the best way, even when it is hazardous. In that case, you can either make the crossing safe - train warning devices, a well-lit crossing, even crossing gates - or you can provide an alternate route for the demand. There is no reason that pedestrian bridge should have been allowed to deteriorate and be closed.
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Re: Girl hit by commuter train in Lawrence - Fatal

Postby MaineCoonCat » Mon Nov 03, 2014 7:39 am

The EGE wrote:Or, you can recognize that they are crossing there because they see it as the best way, even when it is hazardous. In that case, you can either make the crossing safe - train warning devices, a well-lit crossing, even crossing gates - or you can provide an alternate route for the demand. There is no reason that pedestrian bridge should have been allowed to deteriorate and be closed.

This I fully agree with!
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