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Applause for Union Pacific’s Safety Campaign; Flashing Lights and Barriers Are Not Enough

06/18/2007
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Railroad accidents, while not as common as those involving trucks and cars, are often the most gruesome. We are fascinated by television footage of flattened railroad cars, scattered belongings, and shell-shocked passengers. But when we’re in a hurry, it is tempting to ignore the flashing lights at a clearly-marked crossing and play chicken with the oncoming train.

Many times, the railroad companies are at fault. Common sources of railroad disasters are mechanical problems caused by defective parts or faulty maintenance, or the inattention or carelessness of railroad personnel. Often, it takes a lawsuit and hefty punitive damages to force railroad companies to comply with safety standards.

Still, we have to admit that the public has become dangerously oblivious to laws about stopping at railroad crossings. Recognizing this, following an accident where a young girl’s leg was severed, Union Pacific officials in Corpus Christi, Texas seized the offensive. They launched a public awareness campaign about railroad crossing safety, inviting television reporters to ride with conductors for a bird’s-eye view of the dangers drivers create for themselves.

KRIS-TV reported that one truck driver drove around the crossing gate, tried to back up, then put the pedal to the metal just in time to avoid a collision with the train. Another flat bed trailer driver ignored the flashing lights, but got stuck in traffic and ended up on the tracks. He was able to pull ahead just in the nick of time.

Great job, Union Pacific. We just hope that you are paying as much attention to maintenance and training as you are to public relations.

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