Editorial: Trains and cars

Flashing lights, bells, gates, hugely loud train horns sounding — no amount of precaution can eliminate the danger in places where roads cross railroad tracks.

Injuries to the driver of a car struck on the tracks in West Redding Tuesday night were said to be “non-life threatening.” But the accident serves as yet another reminder of how dangerous rail crossings are.

People get killed. Two people died when a train going 50 mph hit a car at the track crossing in West Redding in 2012. Five people were killed when a train hit a car in Valhalla, N.Y, in 2015. Back in the 1970s, a Ridgefield man was killed at the Seeley Road crossing in Wilton.

The Federal Railroad Administration counted 265 deaths in 2016 from 2,025 train-car collisions that also caused 798 injuries. In 2015, there were 233 deaths; in 2014, the toll was 262 lives.

There are things government and railroads can do. There are automated “positive train control” systems that can operate trains more safely. Another idea is using cameras to catch and fine drivers who go through warning bells and lights at railroad crossings. And it would seem obvious that places where roads cross train tracks should have gates, not just flashing lights and bells — but that isn’t always the case.

Still, much of the tragedy comes from drivers making bad decisions — incredibly bad decisions. And this is the one thing people can do themselves. Where a road crosses train tracks, look both ways. And if lights are flashing and bells ringing to warn that a train is coming, stop —

always, always, always stop.