Dangers of Train Crossings Stressed

The Alliance Review 

September 6th, 2008


Every Sept. 8, Ohioans are asked to remember the dangers of crossing railroad tracks " something Dennis and Vicky Moore, trustees and founders of The Angels on Track Foundation, live with every day.

The couple's son was hit and killed while crossing railroad tracks in his vehicle in 1995, spurring the two to start the foundation in an effort to try to install gates at as many dangerous crossing locations in Ohio as possible.

"Most crossings in Ohio are not gated," Vicky Moore informed. "That's what caused my son's death in 1995. He did everything he was supposed to and followed all the laws he was supposed to and he was still hit by a train."

Moore said most crossing sites in Ohio do not offer a clear view due to hills, curving tracks and vegetation. Local governments cannot afford to gate them all and the Public Utilities Commission states it improves about 100 dangerous crossings per year, she said
"Our focus is not on the drivers, who the railroad companies would like us to believe are at fault," she added. "They focus on the driver's behavior because they don't want to gate the crossings. That's because if any of them are not functioning, they will then be liable."

Another problem exists in the way vehicle-train accidents are investigated. It is the Federal Railroad Administration's policy to investigate only those rare accidents involving at least five people or the death of a railroad employee. The accident reports are filled out by the railroads, who overwhelmingly blame motorists for the accidents and then provide the administration with 87 to 94 percent of its figures, according to the Moores. Police reports are often incomplete and do not have the depth of full investigations.

"It is unfathomable the FRA could concentrate on the "best' ways of preventing grade crossing collisions without an extensive record of accident investigations ... The end result is that FRA accident investigations have had little, or no, positive impact on the declining casualty rate over the past 30 years and thus has been of minor impact," Vicky Moore stated.

In spite of continuous gate installations funded by federal and state money, only 26 percent of our nation's 145,800 public crossings and just a handful of the 94,200 private crossings are equipped with gates, the Moores indicated.

The Moores indicated through the hard work of state Sen. Scott Oelslaeger, the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution to address the fact that Ohio has approximately 6,200 public railroad crossings, of which almost half are marked with only crossbuck signs. It acknowledges the combination of lights and automatic gates has proven to be 90 percent effective in preventing collisions between trains and vehicles, although only an estimated 20 percent of railroad crossings in the U.S. are protected with gates.

The couple believes it is meaningful to set aside Sept. 8 each year to raise awareness and to recognize the importance of railroad crossing safety, especially since Ohio ranks in the top 10 states each year for train-car accidents and fatalities and even responsible drivers are faced with dangers while crossing railroad tracks. This is, in their opinion, all the more reason for our local county and state officials to make sure all railroad crossings are clear of sight obstructions and protected with gates.

The Moores have taken it upon themselves in the meantime to make a significant difference through the Angels on Track Foundation they created. Funds are raised through the foundation to install gates at crossings each year, with four improvements made recently in Stark County alone. These include railroad crossings at Fohl Road in Canton Township, Easton Street in North Canton, Martindale in Plain Township, Nimishillen Church and Middlebranch in Lake Township and at 40 Corners in Massillon.

Another function the foundation serves is to allow the public a vehicle through which to make donations and to report unsafe railroad crossings themselves. By e-mailing infor@angelsontrack.org and clicking on the Call to Action link, individuals can fill out a Dangerous Crossing Report. These e-mails are then sent automatically to the Ohio Rail Development Commission, to Angels on Track and to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The Moores have also used the foundation to install signs across Stark County stating "Bad Crossings Kill Good Drivers."

Each year, the Senate Concurrent Resolution 039 is passed again, as was the case in 2008. The resolution calls for Sept. 8 to be called Railroad Crossing Safety Awareness Day and the Moores encourage all Ohioans to be aware of the dangers and to report any unsafe crossings to Angels on Track.


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