Local Couple Establishes Foundation About Railroad Safety
(Group hopes to install gates at all crossings)


November 15, 2007

By: Ann-Margaret Lambo-Reporter

Bad crossings kill good drivers.

That’s the message the non-profit organization Angels on Track is trying to driver home about the railroad industry.  The group believes railroad crossings across the country are in need of serious upgrades and maintenance that ultimately would protect driver’s lives.

Vicky and Denny Moore, who established Angels on Track, know all too well what can happen at a crossing that is not up to par.  In March 1995, their sons, Jason and Ryan, along with four other teens, were in a car attempting to cross railroad tracks on rural Deerfield Avenue near the Stark/Wayne County border when an oncoming train hit them.
Jason was driving the car.  All three passengers in the back seat, including Ryan, were killed instantly.

“When the accident happened, we asked ourselves what everybody thinks – how can you not see or hear a train?” Denny asked.

But once Denny visited the track where his son was killed, it became painfully clear.

“When I went to the crossing where the accident happened the next day, and I saw it, I understood how it could happen,” Denny said.  “It was unbelievable.  With this particular crossing, you go down a real steep hill with woods and brush on both sides, creating a tunnel down to the tracks.  When you get down to the bottom, there was still a lot of brush and trees.  Jason couldn’t see the train coming down the right side of the track because of all that overgrowth.  So how can you not see a train?  It’s pretty doggone easy.”  After than life-changing night, the Moores concluded they had to do something, but they weren’t sure what.  They knew they didn’t want other families to experience the same horrific events they had endured.

“What we really wanted was for the railroad to accept responsibility for what happened,” Vicky said.  “We wanted them to apologize.  But that’s not how (the judicial system) works.”

Denny said it became a legal battle.

“We didn’t want to get involved in a court case, mostly because of our older son,” he said.  “But since we did get pulled into the case, we decided that if we did get awarded some money, we couldn’t spend it.  It would be blood money to us.  The money wasn’t important.”

The Moores were eventually awarded $7 million in a civil suit against Conrail.

But before the jury had made its decision, the Moores knew what they were going to do.  They wanted to establish a foundation that would educate the public about how to make railroad crossings safer.

They also hoped the foundation could expedite the bureaucratic process that often causes
railroad crossing improvements to take longer than necessary.

Many states requiring safety improvements must get federal approval, which can slow the process futher.

Through their foundation, the Moores also decided to set up county task forces that would be awarded grant money through the organization.  The prupose of these task forces was simple – take the grant money from Angels on Track and place safety gates at each of their county’s crossings.  The Moores learned the simplicity stopped there.

According to ther Moores, in the 10 years the foundation has been in existence, they have only worked successfully with six Ohio counties.

So the duo has turned to educating the public about railroad crossing safety as another part of their mission.

Through the foundation, the Moores launched the campaign “Bad Crossings Kill Good Drivers®,” which includes billboards and public service announcements on radio and television.  They also are continuing their efforts to gate railroad crossings in Ohio and nationwide.

“Our Web site also has a Dangerous Crossing Report Form, which people can fill out,” Denny said.  “If someone sees what they believe to be a dangerous crossing they can fill out the form right on the Web site and send it.  We see every one filled out, and the form goes directly to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).”

Vicky would also like to see a more proactive response from the railroad industry.

Vicky said railroad companies need to take some of the responsibility.

“We are not sitting here saying that drivers can’t make mistakes, she said.  “But the railroad’s mindset is that it’s always the driver’s fault.  The railroad industry’s message to us is that drivers are impatient, that they go around gates and try to beat the train.  We’re out there saying that yes, drivers can make a mistake, but let’s talk about the other side of the story, like the fact that only approximately 25 percent of railroad crossings in the United States are gated.”

Locally, Angels on Track has found a voice in two Jackson High School seniors.  Holly Hughes and Jessica Hi, both 17, have chosen Angels on Track as the focus of their senior government project.

The girls chose Angels on Track because they were shocked to learn the foundation even existed.

“I didn’t know much about railroads and I found it to be really interesting,” said Hi.

Hughes agreed.  “We were both surprised to learn that there aren’t any laws that require railroad crossings to be safer,” added Hughes.  “And we were both shocked to learn that Angels on Track was based out of Ohio.”

Hi and Hughes plan to raise money and community awareness through different fundraisers.   Because of the length of their project – it doesn’t have to be completed until the third nine weeks of school – they are still working on their fundraising logistics.  They are planning a letter campaign to Ohio’s legislature to attempt to change the safety of railroad crossings here and across the nation.



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