Metra today staged a collision between a locomotive and an SUV to dramatically illustrate the dangers of ignoring grade crossing protections and to put an exclamation point on this year’s Illinois Rail Safety Week.
To perform the crash, Metra used an out-of-service locomotive that is being sent out for rehabilitation and an SUV that had reached the end of its useful life and was going to be scrapped.
“Our mission is to educate as many drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and individuals that live and/or work in or around the communities we serve about the dangers associated with ignoring signals,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “This event stressed the importance of situational awareness when people are near railroad tracks, platforms and crossings, which can be extremely dangerous.”
Metra filmed the collision and plans to incorporate the video into public service announcements and its existing safety campaigns. Metra will also share the video with the public, railroads, safety organizations and other entities to disseminate its safety message as far and wide as possible.
In 2017, there were more than 2,100 railroad crossing collisions involving motor vehicles nationwide, which resulted in more than 270 fatalities and more than 800 injuries. In Illinois in 2017, there were more than 100 railroad crossing collisions involving motor vehicles; these collisions resulted in 25 fatalities and 29 injuries. In addition, there were 46 trespassing incidents on railroad property in Illinois, which resulted in 20 fatalities and 26 injuries. In 2017, Illinois ranked second in the nation in grade crossing fatalities and seventh in the nation in trespassing fatalities.
According to Operation Lifesaver, there are several factors that contribute to the occurrence of a train versus motor vehicle/pedestrian collision:
- A motorist/pedestrian will see a train coming, but grossly misjudge the actual speed and distance of the train.
- A motorist will try to beat a train to the crossing and either get struck by the train or run into the side of the train.
- As a train clears a crossing, the motorist/pedestrian immediately starts across the tracks without looking for other trains, and may either strike or be struck by a train running on an adjacent track.
- A motorist who becomes too familiar with a crossing may not use the appropriate amount of caution necessary when near a crossing.
- The motorist fails to observe and obey the advance railroad warning sign and other crossing warning signs and signals.
- A motorist is intoxicated and cannot properly operate a motor vehicle.
- A motorist fails to properly adapt his/her driving speed to the nighttime or weather conditions and thus drives into the side of the train.
- A motorist/pedestrian becomes distracted by things such as cell phones, loud music, passengers, GPS, texting, etc. and becomes oblivious to his/her surroundings.
Metra’s ongoing safety efforts to raise awareness and empower the public to keep themselves safe near railroad grade crossings and tracks includes in-classroom and driver’s education presentations, more than 60 station safety blitzes a year and an annual Safety Poster and Essay Contest for area schoolchildren. Since 2006, Metra has been bringing safety lessons into classrooms across northeast Illinois. More than 35,000 students have had the opportunity to show what they’ve learned about the importance of safe behaviors around trains and railroad tracks.