Railroad News

Rail crossing safety: gates or fines?

Centralia, Washington city police ticketed roughly 40 drivers who failed to stop at flashing red lights at a railroad crossing. The roughly 40 drivers were unwitting participants in a brief project, whose stated goal was to “improve safety”. This goal was supposed to be accomplished by fining the violators in an effort to teach them to act differently next time. A Union Pacific train was used, rolling back and forth to trigger the lights and catch any cars which crossed while the lights flashed.

Now, don’t get me wrong: it is important to teach the public about safety at railroad crossings. But what strikes you as being more effective: fining roughly 40 citizens at an unguarded railroad crossing, or implementing safety technology which guards the crossing? If your reasoning runs like mine, you’re probably inclined to say that the latter choice is superior by far. The chances of this operation “saving lives” by teaching 40 random citizens a lesson (or at least giving them a ticket) seems statistically slim, especially compared to the power of a protective gate.

But logic aside, at least there’s a nod in the direction of safety. That it is likely completely useless shouldn’t bother those who collected the funds from this little enterprise. Shouldn’t those concerned for safety be worried about proper safety equipment?