Train Safety

The Newnan Times Herald reported today on an incident that happened in Coweta County Georgia involving a train striking a car that was stopped at a red traffic signal at the intersection of Weldon Road and U.S. 29. The car was stopped past the railroad tracks waiting to turn onto U.S. 29. The location and design of that intersection is dangerous and, in fact, according to a recent study released by the Citizens for Rail Safety and the University of Kentucky, that crossing is the seventh-most accident prone in the nation.{http://www.citizensforrailsafety.org/in-the-news.php?id=74} According to the Federal Highway Administration, a train strikes a vehicle or a pedestrian at a rail crossing approximately every 2 hours in the United States. These 12 daily accidents have the potential of producing catastrophic injuries and deaths. The story publsihed September 19, 2007 reads as follows: Just because your vehicle is off the tracks doesn't mean you can't get hit by a train. A minivan struck by a train at Weldon Road and U.S. 29 north of Newnan was off the railroad tracks, according to deputies with the Coweta County Sheriff's Office, but the train extends 3 feet from the tracks on either side. Deanna Nerowski was driving a Ford Freestyle minivan Tuesday afternoon, waiting to turn onto U.S. 29 from Weldon, when the back of the van was struck by a northbound train. Nerowski and three children were transported to Piedmont Newnan Hospital with non life-threatening injuries, said Lt. John LaChance of the CCSO. There was another vehicle waiting to turn in front of Nerowski at the time of the accident, said Deputy Donnie Slaton. There is no indication that Nerowski was trying to beat the train, said LaChance. He had not had a chance to interview Nerowski to find out if the crossing lights and whistles were activated before she crossed or whether the train was visible. But LaChance said none of the witnesses who saw the crash indicated that Nerowski had tried to cross after she knew the train was coming. "She thought she was safe," having cleared the tracks, LaChance said. "Just because you're off the tracks doesn't mean you're clear of the train." "You should never cross the tracks until you can clear 3 feet," he said. The minivan ended up in the ditch on the north side of the crossing, crashing into the stop sign. The train was stopped several hundred yards down the tracks. "That's how long it takes to stop," said Slaton. The driver of the train "was probably on the brakes" when the train struck the minivan, he said. After the accident, the train was uncoupled to allow the crossing to be opened to traffic while crews from the CCSO, CSX Railroad, and Georgia Department of Transportation investigated and cleared the accident. The crossing at Weldon is the seventh-most accident prone in the nation, according to a recent study released by the Citizens for Rail Safety and the University of Kentucky. An intersection improvement project at Weldon, which includes turning lanes, a traffic light, and crossing arms, is nearing completion. The most recent completion date is Sept. 30, according to the DOT. DOT officials could not be reached for an updated completion time Tuesday evening. However, crews were out Monday and Tuesday hanging the new traffic signals for the intersection. The contractor for the project, Baldwin Paving Company, has most recently been working on installing a retaining wall that will be next to the northbound right turn lane on U.S. 29. CSX Railroad will also be doing some work on the project — widening the crossing to accommodate the various turn lanes and installing crossing arms to block the crossing when trains are coming.
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