(Post Falls, Idaho – April 13, 2017)
Two Idaho teenagers were badly injured at about 3:10 P.M. Thursday afternoon when their car was struck and demolished by a westbound Union Pacific train. The collision occurred at the extremely angular and unguarded Kootenai County crossing of UPRR tracks and North Huetter Road near Post Falls, ID.
The driver, Austin Wiseman, 18, of Hayden, ID and his 15-year-old unidentified female passenger from Coeur d’Alene, ID, were both rushed from the scene to Kootenai Health Hospital in Coeur d’Alene. The Austin Wiseman was listed in critical condition and the unidentified passenger was admitted in serious condition.
Motorists headed south on Huetter Road have great difficulty in seeing train due to the extremely acute angle of their approach to the crossing. The dangerousness of the crossing is couple with the fact that there were no active warning devices, such as lights and gates, to warn motorists of approaching trains. According to Federal Railroad Administration records, nine UPRR trains traverse the crossing daily at a maximum allowable speed of 49 mph. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision would not have occurred. Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
The collision Thursday was very near the deadly UPRR rail corridor Post Falls crossing. In mid-February a UPRR train took the life of a musically-talented 15-year-old and seriously injured her fellow musician, a 17-year-old. That collision occurred as the pair drove to Post Oak High School to leave for a State High School Jazz Band competition.
KHQ-TV Channel 6 NBC News Reporter Adam Mayer also emphasized that only the day before, public law enforcement personnel had written about 20 traffic citations to drivers of vehicles perceived to be in violation of crossing laws and passing in front of a single UP locomotive in an Idaho Operation Lifesaver “sting” operation along the same railroad line. However, studies have proven that these programs or “stings” have no long term impact on crossing safety. The only proven long term method to reduce railroad crossing accidents is the installation of active warning devices, such as lights and gates.
The Federal Railroad Administration’s railroad crossing website listed no previous accidents to have occurred at the road/rail intersection.