Train crossings are dangerous places in Chicagoland, especially for pedestrians. At busy crossings, stopped trains sometimes hide oncoming ones, tricking pedestrians into thinking it is safe to cross – and raising the risk of a Chicago train accident.
By the time a conductor sees a pedestrian on the tracks, it’s too late to avoid an accident. The average train traveling 55 miles per hour needs a full mile of track to come to a complete stop.
This very scenario played out in Downers Grove this past November.
A 51 year-old woman from Joliet was killed in a train accident near the Main Street Metra Station. She was struck by an oncoming Burlington Northern/Santa Fe freight train.
The area where the woman was killed has three sets of tracks. At the time of the accident, a Metra commuter train was stopped on the first set of tracks. Although the crossing gates were down, the woman apparently went around the barriers and began crossing the tracks. She was between the first and second set of tracks when she was struck and killed by the BNSF train, which was approaching from behind the parked Metra train.
Accident Could Have Been Prevented
No one will ever know exactly what was going through the woman’s mind when she began crossing the tracks. It’s likely she was unaware of the oncoming freight train and thought it would be safe to cross the tracks.
After the accident, police reminded pedestrians to never try and cross train tracks when the gate is down. However, many pedestrians do, especially when they think the crossing gate is down for a train that is stopped or for one that just cleared the station.
Over the last year, some Metra stations have received safety upgrades to warn pedestrians about oncoming trains and avoid mass transit accidents. The so-called “Another Train Warning System” employs audio and visual warnings to alert pedestrians that a train – in addition to the one that is stopped at the station – is approaching.
The system is designed to address the safety hazards posed by mass transit systems, like the Metra, that share stations and track with freight trains.
So far, the warning system has only been installed at a small number of Metra stations. Had the system been installed at Downers Grove, a life could have been saved.