The Independent

June 11, 2002

By: Shane Riggs

The Angels on Track Foundation—founded by Denny and Vicky Moore—is being credited for what could be a new state law holding railroad companies more accountable for mishaps that occur with cars.

Currently, driver error is the only cause considered in a train to vehicle collision. The bill—co-authorized by the Moores and State Sen. Scott Oelslager, would change that and other factors would be considered—including the safety conditions and age of the rails.

“It’s so easy to just blame the driver,” Vicky Moore said. “That’s because so often the driver isn’t around to defend himself. Everything out there now blames the driver. The wording (in the bill) means everyone can be held accountable.”

That “everyone” included the railroad. If the railroad, for instance, has not taken steps to improve its crossings, it could be held legally responsible and liable for an accident.

Moore said the foundation spent nearly eight months working on semantics.

“We have been working on this since August. I wanted to make sure the families affected by these tragedies would benefit from it,” she said. “The railroads have to share the responsibility.”

Oelslager said the bill inspired by the Moores is timely and needed.

“Considering the high volume of traffic on Ohio’s roadways, it’s only natural that the number of railroad crossing accidents taking place in our state will be somewhat higher than others,” he said. “This fact is all the more reason for us to take the initiative in making sure that our railroad crossings are as safe as they can be.”

In 2000, Ohio ranked sixth in the nation in the number of car to train accidents and seventh in the nation in fatalities. There are more than 4,000 unmarked railroad crossings in the state.

In 1995, the Moores’ son, Ryan, 16, was killed along with two other teens who were passengers in the backseat of a car struck by a train at an unmarked crossing. The same crossing had been the site of eight deaths over a 20-year period.

After a successful lawsuit against the railroad company, the Moores used their settlement to found the Angels on Track Foundation, the first charity organization dedicated to railroad safety.

The Angels on Track Foundation has assisted municipalities in making 11 crossings safer since its formation. Five crossings are set for improvements this year. The foundation grants the needed matching dollars by local municipalities to install lights and gates. That mission has expanded to include a “Crossing to Safety” educational program, recently introduced to the first Stark County school.

“We have a lot of projects now in addition to the funding,” Moore said. “This is what Denny and I really want to do. This is what we feel we were meant to do when we started the foundation. With the educational branch, we can get the truth out.”

Vicky and Denny Moore both feel the mission of the foundation is far from complete.

“The laws have to change. Equipment has to change. The railroad industry has to change,” said Vicky Moore. “And this is the time for change.”


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