July 19, 2000

By Jill Keller-Herald Staff Reporter

Many railroad crossings in this area are only marked by a reflectorized sign, known as a "crossbuck."

Too often we do not hear about the dangers of these railroad crossings until a tragedy like the one that claimed the life of John Reese occurs.

"For too long the railroads have treated the issue of railroad safety as everyone else's problem --throwing responsibility to make their trains and tracks safer, onto the local officials and communities," said Sherry Fox, executive director of RailWatch, a national non-profit rail safety organization.

"The railroads need to be responsible for these crossings and the accidents that occur on them," said Fox. "The solution is not to blame the driver, which is what happens in most cases."

Fox stated that many times the driver is thought to be trying to "beat the train" but "you can't beat the train if you can't see the train."

According to Fox there are often many factors that can obstruct a drivers view of an oncoming train which could be eliminated if every crossing had the proper lighting and gating warning devices.

"The railroad companies are making enormous profits," said Fox, -- "yet their accident record remains a disgrace and is virtually unchanged from year to year." It's clear we have a serious problem.

"RailWatch is dedicated to educating the public about railroad safety and trying to hold the nation's railroads accountable for their operations and their safety records."

Together Fox works with another organization, Angels on Track, that was started by Vicky Moore after her son was killed in a train accident to improve railroad crossing safety.

"Our mission is to provide the financial backing needed to improve railroad crossing safety throughout Ohio," said Moore. "We are currently building a strong grassroots organization to work with Congress and the federal regulators."

Angels on Track Foundation, formed in part by train crash victims and their families, want the government and rail companies to do more to prevent train-car collisions, derailments, and train related hazardous waste spills.

Getting warning signals in place faster is what Moore has set out to do. -- They hope to transfer part of their responsibility for signal installation from the state to the local level.

"It is not a priority until someone is killed," said Moore. -- "The accident formula has to first be met before they will consider upgrading the crossings."

Both women agree that there is no uniformity from state to state on how the railroad crossings are guarded.

"The people involved in these accidents are normal, well-educated people who do not all of a sudden become ignorant and forget how to drive," said Moore.

"The problem is that there is not advance warning to alert drivers to an oncoming train, and often their own view is obstructed by the shrubs and trees that are not maintained around the crossing areas."

For more information on RailWatch call them at 877-RAWATCH and for The Angels on Track Foundation check out their website at

"The more people that get involved the better," said Fox. -- "If we can generate enough noise, we will make a change that will make a difference."


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