Two men driving a Blue Earth County, Minnesota dump truck were struck by a Union Pacific train on Sunday. They lost their lives at the unguarded crossing. Now, the residents of nearby Lake Crystal are left wondering if a guarded railroad crossing might have saved lives. There’s good reason to think so, too: 95% of railroad crossing accidents could be prevented by functioning lights and gates. This is especially potent in the case of commercial truck driving: commercial truck drivers should never have to drive over unguarded railroad crossings. Sadly, railroads do not disseminate this information, nor do they take any substantive action to improve the gross amount of unsafe crossings in our country.
This crossing, sadly, is a case in point: the deaths of these two men has not prompted railroad officials to improve the crossing. The county itself, limited on funds, must upgrade the crossings as funding allows. This particular crossing has been in the consideration for some time now. This tragedy, though causing up quite a stir, has not prompted officials (railroad, state, county) to immediately implement safety technology. Instead, residents are told that lights and gates might be installed “by 2013”.
This is obviously not far enough. Lake Crystal saw another death at an unguarded crossing recently, after which the crossing was outfitted with safety equipment. Sometimes, it takes a tragedy before safety measures are taken. Other times, as is now the case in Lake Crystal, even a tragedy won’t spark action.