Walking on railroad tracks dangerous, illegal

2012-12-18T23:15:00Z 2012-12-21T16:02:20Z Walking on railroad tracks dangerous, illegalChas Reilly chas.reilly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5324 nwitimes.com
December 18, 2012 11:15 pm  • 

Anyone contemplating walking on or near railroad tracks should consider what it would be like to cross a busy street on foot.

Both situations have similar dangers, but cars can swerve to avoid collisions. Trains don't have the same ability, said Marc Magliari, Amtrak media relations manager.

It takes an average freight train more than a mile to stop if it's traveling at 55 mph, according to the Operation Lifesaver website, which provides rail safety information.

Magliari stressed that train tracks are not a safe place "to cut through or walk."

According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, an average of about 500 people are killed each year in the U.S. walking along train tracks, and the number of pedestrians killed after being struck by trains has increased by 10 percent through September this year.

"You just have to stay away from the tracks," said Bill Jarvis, the executive director of the Tri-Town Safety Village in Schererville, which provides instruction about railroad safety and other topics to local students.

One pedestrian was struck and killed by a train in 2011 in Lake County. At least two pedestrians were fatally struck by trains this year in the county.

Marques Maurice Rummage, 29, of Gary, died from blunt force trauma he suffered Dec. 8 after being struck by a train in the area of the 900 block of Wallace Street in Gary.

Chloe Burks, a 15-year-old Hanover Central High School student, was struck and killed by a Norfolk Southern train May 23 in Cedar Lake.

Burks had headphones in her ears and didn't hear an oncoming train while walking on the tracks near 133rd Avenue.

On Saturday, Jose Perez, 17, of Chicago, died after being involved in a train accident at 1051 Indianapolis Blvd. in Hammond.

Officials haven't released details of the situation, including if Perez was walking on tracks when the incident occurred.

Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon indicated in an email that he can't comment on the circumstances of the situation because there is an ongoing investigation.

In addition to the dangers of walking on or near railroad tracks, it's also illegal, Jarvis said.

Pedestrians on tracks are considered to be trespassing because tracks are privately owned, he said.

There have been no pedestrian trespasser deaths in Porter County through September this year, but one person was injured Aug. 11 while walking on Canadian National Railroad tracks near Yellowstone Road in Valparaiso, according to Federal Railroad Administration data.

An 18-year-old man was wearing headphones while in the middle of the tracks, and he was struck by an oncoming train, a Federal Railroad Administration report states. The person suffered a leg injury, according to the report.

Jarvis said climbing on stopped train cars also is dangerous.

On Dec. 24 last year, two 18-year-olds were injured while crossing over a stopped train in Lake County, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

One person suffered a leg injury after falling under equipment when the train began to move, the report states. The other person suffered a head injury while assisting the person who fell.

The report didn't indicate the municipality in which the incident occurred.

Magliari said railroads post signs at tracks to discourage trespassers, and there are educational tools, such as the Operation Lifesaver website, which explain the dangers of walking on or near tracks.

The Tri-Town Safety Village in Schererville has its own train crossing and instructor to explain railroad safety to students.

Jarvis estimated nearly 30 schools participate in the Tri-Town Safety Village program, but he hopes more local schools will become involved.

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