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Thursday, October 23, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Three people were hospitalized after this mishap in Elton. The driver reportedly drove into the path of a westbound Union Pacific Freight train. The driver of the SUV placed the vehicle in reverse in an attempt to avoid collision, but the train struck the right front of the SUV. (Special to the American Press)<br>

Three people were hospitalized after this mishap in Elton. The driver reportedly drove into the path of a westbound Union Pacific Freight train. The driver of the SUV placed the vehicle in reverse in an attempt to avoid collision, but the train struck the right front of the SUV. (Special to the American Press)

Editorial: Be alert, cautious at all railroad crossings

Last Modified: Friday, March 01, 2013 6:20 PM

A recent train-SUV collision at a railroad crossing near U.S. Highway 190 at Elton is an unfortunate reminder to always be alert and cautious at railroad crossings.

Three people were hospitalized after the mishap. The driver reportedly drove into the path of a westbound Union Pacific Freight train. The driver of the SUV placed the vehicle in reverse in an attempt to avoid collision, but the train struck the right front of the SUV.

Fortunately no one was killed in the Elton collision. But in 2011, nine people were killed and 68 injured in train-vehicle accidents in Louisiana.

It is also fortunate that crashes and deaths at railroad crossings have declined both in Louisiana and nationwide. The Federal Railroad Administration reports that, nationally, incidents at public and private crossings fell from 9,461 in 1981 to 1,956 in 2011. The national Operation Lifesaver program reports that injuries and deaths at crossings declined by 84 percent since the organization was founded in 1972.

Despite the progress, Operation Lifesaver reports that a person or vehicle is hit by a train about every three hours. A variety of causes, such as distracted driving and trying to outrun a moving train, contribute to crashes at rail crossings. It is important for drivers to realize that they and their passengers will almost always be the losers in a crash with a moving train. A motorist in a crash between a train and a motor vehicle is many times more likely to die than in a collision between two motor vehicles.

A train pulling 100 cars traveling 50 mph takes about one mile to stop. The average train weighs 12 million pounds — about 4,000 times more than a car. Then there’s the obvious: A train cannot swerve to avoid a vehicle in its path.

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission partners with Louisiana Operation Lifesaver and other organizations to reduce the number of crashes at rail crossings. We urge motorists to obey the flashing lights and lowered crossing gates at rail crossings — don’t try to drive around them. It’s not only illegal to do so, but it can cost you your life. We also remind drivers that you can’t always hear a train approaching if your vehicle windows are up, air-conditioning is on and music is blaring in your vehicle. It’s also common for drivers to miscalculate how quickly a train will reach a crossing.

Obey warning signals as you approach a rail crossing. If there is no warning signal, follow the old rule of stopping, looking and listening. Doing so can save your life and that of your passengers.

Always be alert and cautious at all railroad crossings.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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