Making choices, taking chances

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 20, 1999

From staff reports

There are approximately a quarter million railroad crossing in the United States.

Friday, August 20, 1999

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There are approximately a quarter million railroad crossing in the United States. Each day, millions of cars, bikes and pedestrians cross them. That’s what they are there for.

Still, someone – in a car or on foot – gets struck by a train every 100 minutes.

In fact, more people die in highway-rail crashes than in commercial airline crashes.

A motorist tangling with a train is 40 times more likely to die than if hit by another car or truck.

These are sobering experiences.

They give reason to pause – especially at a railroad crossing.

Imagine, nearly 430 deaths and 1,300 injuries last year could have been prevented if drivers stopped to watch a train rather than rushing to beat it.

Yesterday’s test of whether Albert Lea drivers are willing to wait and live another day proved what railroad employees and law enforcement officers already knew. Motorists are are willing to risk their lives to shave seconds off their drive.

More than 16 drivers decided to risk a collision with a train because they didn’t want to wait for it to cross their path.

More than 16 motorists decided they needed to be on the other side of the tracks as soon as possible.

More than 16 drivers valued seconds over years of their lives.

More than 16 motorists took a stupid risk.

Sure, they survived. No one was hurt. People do it everyday.

But, those drivers discovered they were risking more than their lives Thursday morning. They were also risking their pocketbooks.

While patrolmen who stopped the 16 drivers only issued warnings, they could have easily issued tickets – tickets that come with fines.

Ultimately, there is one message that engineers, conductors and officers can hope drivers take away from yesterday’s experiment.

Hopefully, they will learn to be patient and value their lives.