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SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2007
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Use common sense, caution at crossings

To The Daily: I read Eric Fleischauer’s article on “market solutions” to railroad grade crossing accidents with some incredulity. I’ve spent my working career in railroading (I now work for a federal agency after 20 years of consulting).

Apparently Mr. Fleischauer has never looked at a copy of the “Rail/Highway Crossing Accident/Incident Report” put out annually by the Federal Railroad Administration. Gates and flashers are certainly not an absolute preventative against accidents. In fact, some years ago I put out the FRA’s annual safety and grade crossing reports as a contractor. I vividly remember that one-third of all grade crossing fatalities that year occurred:

  • In daylight

  • In clear weather

  • At crossings with gates and/or flashers

  • Where crossing protection was functioning normally

    The reason, of course, is simple. Gates and flashers are found where the busiest roads cross railroads. Only lightly traveled roads (or lightly traveled railroad tracks) tend to have only crossbucks. Nevertheless, cars must still yield the right of way to trains. Your neighbor Georgia has been proactive in placing stop signs at all (otherwise unprotected) grade crossings. Just take a minute and stop. You might avoid getting hit.

    The largest category of civil actions against railroads in grade-crossing accidents is by drivers who have driven into the side of a train at a grade crossing. Many of these crossings have “active” protection (lights and gates). One has to wonder about the intelligence level of the public. I’ve been an expert witness in several of these actions.

    I suggest that greater caution on the part of drivers is the best preventative. After all, as I used to tell my daughter when she was 3 years old, the train won’t chase you down the street. Just stay off the tracks when a train is around, and you’ll be fine. Randolph Resor
    Merchantville, N.J.

    Laws protecting railroads should be repealed

    To The Daily: I have to applaud Eric Fleischauer regarding his March 25 article. Thank you for voicing an opinion for what is wrong with the railroads. Their attitude is: I was here first so it’s not my fault if I kill your loved ones. The railroads make billions every year. Just let a gas truck explode in Lacon and cause a two-day delay in transporting goods. I’d like to see the bill that gas company got for being the owner of that truck. I’d bet it was at least seven figures.

    Having been through a fight with CSX, I am very aware of their callous attitude. When I was fighting them, I was under the assumption I was going to get a chance to fight back and get the laws changed. Imagine my surprise when I was told by a judge on Sept. 9, 2003, “I don’t have to let a jury hear this trial” because the car pulled out in front of a train. The law favors the railroads.

    The laws protecting the railroads need to be repealed. Did you know that “putting salt on a railroad track may be punishable by death” in Alabama? It’s not their fault if you get killed because you cannot see through brush on their right of way.

    If you don’t see or hear a train coming at you, the punishment can be death. On March 16, Gerald Jernigan became at least the 13th person to have died in North Alabama since my daughter, Casey Blevins, died July 7, 1999, at a railroad crossing.

    Let’s nationalize the railroads and use the profits (one month’s worth?) to install gates and protect the people. It has worked in Europe. Kathy Blevins Beard
    Hartselle

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