One particular railroad crossing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado has been the site of several collisions over the past 30 years, and Union Pacific is finally doing something about it. The crossing almost took the life of Buck Chavarria, who escaped from the oncoming train by jumping out of his pickup. Chavarria says that with no warning equipment, the crossing is particularly deadly: drivers have to inch their way forward to check for oncoming trains, as the visibility is limited. Chavarria was unlucky, as his truck just wouldn’t stop sliding forward one icy day as a train approached.
Chavarria’s experience has alerted him to the significant need for proper safety equipment at crossings. Unfortunately, his accident was back in 2006, and only now is safety equipment being installed. FRA information has this particular crossing pegged as a source of accidents since 1978. Why then is proper safety equipment only now being installed, in 2009? Certainly there are reasons, with the number one issue being Union Pacific’s avoidance of the issue. But if you search for justifiable reasons, you will find none whatsoever. A potentially dangerous crossing should be outfitted with proper equipment before the time ever comes to ask why one of the beloved local citizens had to die or face critical injuries.
Railroad companies have never quite been listening when someone repeats that old adage: “Prevention is the best cure.” They’ve habitually covered their ears with their wallets.