(Rathdrum, Idaho – September 13, 2012)
A 22-year old female motorist was killed early Thursday morning at about 7:30 A.M. in Kootenai County, ID, east of Rathdrum, ID, when she stopped and then proceeded into the path of a UPRR freight train at the highway stop sign/railroad crossbuck-protected intersection of Ramsey Road and Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
Rebecca Birdsong was driving south on Ramsey Road and the westbound train, coming out of the morning sunlight, struck her vehicle almost directly at the driver’s seat, casting the destroyed wreckage aside and proceeding a mile beyond the impact point before coming to a stop.
There are no active protective devices such as lights, bells or gates at the Ramsey Road/UPRR crossing, but Major Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Dept. had plenty of defense, obviously supplied by Operation Lifesaver (which the media described as “an organization dedicated to reducing railroad accidents”), for the lack of the lifesaving devices. He said there are two factors, one being the number of cars using the crossing, and the second being the number of trains going through the area, that determine which crossings have active warning devices versus passive.
He also used the argument that “it costs about $250,000 to put in a system with cross arms and lights. It’s paid for by taxpayers and then maintained by the railroad companies.”
The media further indicated that “Operation Lifesaver reports that 25-percent of railroad accidents happen with cross arms and lights, so it’s not the perfect solution.”
The negative report ignored the positive statistic, supplied by railroad industry sources that over 90% of all railroad grade crossing incidents could be prevented through installation of those same active protective devices.