Number of vehicle-train collisions down statewide, but high in Somerset
Four of seven recent train-versus-vehicle accidents in PennDOT's District 9 occurred at or near this Route 281 crossing in Somerset. (Staff photo by Roger Vogel / March 18, 2013)
Pamela Kane, safety spokeswoman for the district, which includes Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties, said that all four were on Route 281. Three were at the crossing at Pleasant Avenue and the fourth was along Route 281 a short distance away.
The last fatal accident involving a train in Somerset County was on March 28, 2011, when Ann Simpson of Somerset was killed at the Pleasant Avenue and Stoystown Road crossing. The most recent fatal train and pedestrian accident in Somerset County was when James Livengood, Meyersdale, was killed on July 30, 2011, as he tried to cross the tracks between two cars in a train that had stopped but started moving.
Collisions between vehicles and trains in Pennsylvania fell by 4.8 percent in 2012, but train pedestrian deaths and injuries rose 23.5 percent, according to the nonprofit rail safety education organization Operation Lifesaver of Pennsylvania.
"We are gratified with the continued reduction in highway-rail grade crossing collisions," Pennsylvania Operation Lifesaver Executive Director Don Lubinsky said in a written statement. "Educating a distracted public in order to reduce trespassing injuries and fatalities continues to be a challenge."
Across Pennsylvania, crossing collisions were down to 60 in 2012. There were four fatalities and 21 injuries. There were 28 deaths and 21 injuries involving trains and pedestrians in 2012 in the state. Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation in pedestrian and train fatalities and third in the number of injuries. These numbers do not include train derailments.
"It's a sobering fact that the number of Americans killed while trespassing on train tracks continues to outpace fatalities from vehicle-train collisions," Lubinsky said. "Operation Lifesaver, in partnership with major freight railroads, commuter and light rail systems, state and local law enforcement, and transportation agencies, is expanding our efforts to encourage Americans to make safe decisions around tracks and trains."
Kane agrees with Lubinsky on the need for motorists to make good decisions around tracks.
"Looking at all the vehicle-train collisions, failure to respond to traffic control devices were the cause," she said. "Stop for traffic control devices. Treat trains with more respect. They are bigger and much harder to stop."
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is holding a hearing July 30 and 31 in the Somerset County Courthouse to determine what should be done at the Pleasant Avenue and Stoystown Road railroad crossing. Administrative Law Judge Mary Long is to preside.