Drivers sometimes make decisions that are irrational and risky. And when they do, they often put not only their own lives at risk, but the lives of others as well.
In May, a 59-year-old dump truck driver decided to drive around a crossing gate for a Metra train in Mount Prospect. The gates were down, with flashing lights and an illuminated no-left turn sign. But the driver still thought he could cross the tracks before the incoming train arrived.
It was a fatal error. The train hit the truck, killing the truck driver and injuring 26 people on the train.
The accident happened at 8:40 a.m. on a Friday, and the train was almost full. There were 850 passengers on board when the train hit the truck.
With so many people on board, officials expressed relief that this Metra accident did not result in even more injuries. “It could have been much worse,” said Mount Prospect Mayor Irvana Wilks. “Our heart goes out to the people . . . and the family of the gentleman who has passed away.”
A spokesman for Union Pacific said the speed of the train when it hit the dump truck was 50 mph. The impact severed the cab of the truck and the driver was ejected from the cab. The truck, which had a diesel tank on each side, caught fire. The first three cars of the train were soon covered in heavy smoke and a fireball went through the first cabin.
Automated Warning Systems
Transportation officials in the Chicago area have been seeking to implement improved warning systems for Metra trains. For example, Metra and Union Pacific have negotiated an agreement called Another Train Warning System (AWTS) to better alert pedestrians in Metra stations of approaching trains.
The accident in Mount Prospect shows, however, that human error can occur at any time. No matter how extensive a warning system is, injuries and even death can be the result when warnings are not heeded.