U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) earlier this week introduced a bill aimed at improving safety at grade crossings.
The Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015 was introduced in reaction to the recent MTA Metro-North Railroad accident in which a train collided with a sport utility vehicle that stopped on a crossing in Valhalla, N.Y. The incident resulted in six fatalities. In 2013, 2,096 accidents occurred at crossings that killed more than 200 people nationwide, the senators said in a joint press release.
The bill would boost the amount of federal grants for safety upgrades at crossings, and more education and safety awareness campaigns. The legislation would focus on what the senators said experts have identified as the “three Es” of the most effective means of reducing crossing collisions: engineering, education and enforcement.
“While the precise cause of the Metro-North crash in Valhalla is still under investigation, it’s crystal clear that the existence of the grade crossing played at least some role in the fatal, tragic accident, and this new legislation will focus on providing new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and localities to help make much-needed improvements at many crossings and help eliminate future collisions. Improved safety must rise from this dark tragedy,” Schumer said.
The senators call for additional resources for education was hailed by Operation Lifesaver inc. (OLI) President Joyce Rose.
“Education plays a crucial role in raising awareness among motorists and pedestrians about the potential dangers present at all highway-rail intersections and along train tracks,” she said.
A person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours, according to OLI. Ninety-five percent of all fatalities on U.S. railroads are due to people trying to beat a train at a crossing or walking on railroad tracks. Schumer and Blumenthal said that many of those deaths are preventable.