(Planada, California – June 8, 2011)
“Killing Fields” is how The Merced Sun-Star described the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks that run through Planada, CA. The newspaper is now calling for greater safety measures following two area railroad-related fatalities in only a few days.
“Like many Merced County towns, Planada grew up around the railroad. The town’s 4,000 residents are separated from vital services by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks,” said the newspaper.
“Every day, dozens – perhaps hundreds – of Planada residents walk and drive across the tracks as they go about their daily lives. Occasionally, those tracks become deadly. Sadly, it’s happened twice in little more than a week.
The two fatalities are only the most recent tragedies to occur on railroad tracks in the Planada area. The death of a 10-year-old boy who was killed while walking near the tracks in 2006 still haunts many residents. The fact is, railroad accidents happen too frequently, despite warning signs and enforcement efforts.”
The editorial (“Our View: Railroad Tracks In Planada Have Been Killing Fields”), however, soon turned the tone of the criticism to recounting efforts such as law enforcement “sting” operations, aimed at people allegedly crossing the tracks illegally, or calling for more programs by Operation Lifesaver , which the newspaper referred to as “an organization that sends volunteers to provide rail safety presentations to schools, clubs and other organizations throughout California.”
The editorial suggested more cooperation and dialogue between government and civic organizations, but left out the railroad as an entity that could bring about a solution to the dangerous conditions. “Through education and awareness, we should be able to all but eliminate the number of tragedies occurring along Merced County railroad tracks,” concluded the editorial.
This common misconception is that the Railroads aren’t responsible for safety along the tracks. Too often the public assumes it was the pedestrian or driver who was at fault, but in reality, the railroad industry should be held accountable for making public crossings as safe as every other street or traffic crossing in the area. Lights and gates are the most effective means of securing crossings, but their expense keeps the railroad industry admitting it.