Six people were killed in two separate railroad crossing accidents recently over a single weekend in Chicago (3 killed in Metra crash on Far South Side, second fatal train-vehicle crash in Chicago area in 2 days). In each case, two adults and one child suffered fatal injuries when their vehicle was struck by a train while crossing railroad tracks.
According to local officials, it appeared the drivers of both vehicles drove around the crossing arm and attempted to cross ahead of an oncoming train, despite warnings from flashing lights and alarm bells. There was no indication that gates or systems were not operating properly at the time of the accidents, but investigations were ongoing.
The trains, traveling at speeds approaching 80 miles per hour, were unable to stop in time. An engineer for Metra Rail System said that although a train may look extremely far away or even be completely out of the driver’s line of sight at a railroad crossing, there is very little time for a vehicle to cross. It can take nearly a mile for a train to come to a complete stop at that speed.
“That train will be on that crossing anywhere between 25-30 seconds from the time the first light goes off and gates go down,” David Martinez said. “The odds are, you are not going to beat it and if you do, you’re lucky.”
The accidents caused some to call for drivers to be more cautious at railroad crossings (2 fatal train crashes prompt new call for driver caution at railroad crossings). However, a 2017 Chicago law already doubled the fines for drivers caught going around the gates. The railroads could make all of their crossings completely safe if they believed it was cost-effective to do so, but unfortunately they all prioritize maximizing profits over safety.
It is long past time to hold the railroads responsible for guaranteeing the safety of the people in the communities they travel through instead of blaming the victims of these preventable tragedies. If you have been injured in a railroad crossing accident, it is crucial that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.