While the Florida high-speed rail project may have been canceled by Gov. Scott in 2011, commuter train service is still expanding in Florida. SunRail is a new commuter train service expected to start operating in the greater Orlando area by the spring of 2014. Tri-Rail has been operating commuter railway service in South Florida since 1989. As commuter train service expands, there needs to be an emphasis on safety, as there is a greater risk of accidents, particularly at railway crossings.
Accidents between commuter trains and motor vehicles can be fatal
In January, a 49-year-old man from Boca Raton was killed when his SUV was hit by the Tri-Rail commuter train. The SUV exited Interstate 95, drove past the railroad crossing gate and, for some unknown reason, stopped on the tracks. While there were no injuries to any of the more than 200 passengers on the train, the horrible accident did cause major delays for what is usually a short train ride. The accident happened just weeks after Tri-Rail announced it had purchased 24 new, safer passenger cars. The new cars had several added safety features, such as areas in the front and rear cars that were made to crumple and absorb the force of impact, middle cars with newly designed tables that crush in an accident and new seating configurations.
How to avoid accidents at highway-railway crossings
According to Florida’s Department of Transportation, only about 65 percent of Florida’s 4,503 at‐grade highway‐rail crossings have active warning devices, and about 35 percent have passive warning devices. There are several factors that can affect the safety at these crossings:
- Railway systems should upgrade to active warning devices at all highway‐rail crossings.
- Drivers should never attempt to beat the train and hurry through the crossing ahead of the gate.
- Drivers should have their radios off when approaching a railroad crossing so they can hear an oncoming train and whistles.
- Railway systems should have experienced operators and state-of-the-art braking systems.
Collisions between commuter trains and motor vehicles can cause serious injuries to passengers on the train and the occupants of the car. If you were injured in a train accident, you should consult with a certified and experienced St. Petersburg car accident lawyer.