(Athens, Alabama – June 13, 2013)
The factors which combine to make railroad crossings more dangerous were in place Thursday afternoon at about 3:50 P.M. when a CSX train struck an 18-wheeler at the crossing of Roy Long Road in Athens, AL, resulting in injury for the truck driver. What was not in place was any form of active protective devices, as the crossing lacked flashing lights, bells and gates, instead having only standard railroad cross-buck and highway “stop” signs there.
The driver, Mitchell Carl Thomas, 53, of Lester, AL had to be extricated from the wreckage of the truck tractor’s cab by Athens Fire and Rescue and was then rushed to Athens Limestone Hospital by ground ambulance.
A law enforcement officer who said the victim pulled in front of the train might want to consider the presence of heavy tree foliage in three of the four quadrants of the crossing, which experiences the crossing of a daily average of 28 CSX trains at a top allowable speed of 60 mph.
As mentioned earlier, this incident happened at a dangerous, unguarded crossing. Both CSX and their rail industry-controlled Operation Lifesaver public education program know that the combination of lights and gates is the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over the past 50 years all confirm the same conclusion: that the combination of flashing lights, bells and crossing gates offers the ability to drastically reduce the number of highway vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%. Meanwhile, the use of passive signage, such as cross-bucks and stop signs has little, if any, protective potential.