Fences, Railroad Right-of-Way and the Death of Trespassers
On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. on Wednesday, December 12, 2012
In a detailed investigation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published a series on pedestrian accidents along railroad tracks. The report describes the dangers of crossing or walking along the tracks from across the country. They began the investigation after the death of a 14-year old in Kirkwood on May 30, 2012. They found that he was not the only pedestrian to die after being struck by a train on that day.
Four people were killed in pedestrian accidents involving railroads that day. The Post-Dispatch found that investigating these deaths was a challenge. The reporting of pedestrian fatalities lacked precision. And it appeared that the railroads preferred to keep it that way.
To fix a problem, one generally has to understand its scope before one can suggest a workable solution. The leading source of railroad-related fatalities are pedestrian deaths. These “accidents” along railroad tracks has been something of a cipher for years, as up until recently, railroad companies only had to report the county in which the death occurred.
They didn’t have to note the location on the tracks, and when efforts were made to require GPS data, the railroads all fought the proposal. Amtrak even stated that it was worried that data showing accidents in hot spots could lead to the “improper assumption” that the railroads were responsible for the deaths.
As the father of a girl who was killed by a train said, trespassing is not a capital crime.
Railroads raise many specious arguments, claiming they cannot fence all 160,000 miles of track in the nation. But that is not what is suggested by safety advocates, who want hot spots where multiple deaths occur fenced. The railroads claim fences won’t stop all deaths, but what if it stops most?
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Railroads have fought efforts to identify problem spots for pedestrians” Todd C. Frankel, December 10, 2012