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Press Release

'Gate Jumping' a Leading Cause of California Transit Accidents

Gate jumping is responsible for a growing number of mass transit accidents with S.F. MUNI, Caltrain, BART and other commuter trains across California.
May 12, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Nearly every driver knows the sinking feeling that comes after seeing the railroad crossing arms drop just as you are about to cross over a set of train tracks. Depending on where you are, you could end up waiting for a very long time.
The situation can be ever more frustrating when you look down the tracks and see that the train is still blocks away. In this situation, some people are tempted to try and drive around the crossing arm to cross the tracks before the train arrives. This is always a bad idea.
Authorities say that this behavior -- called "gate jumping" -- is responsible for a growing number of California mass transit accidents between passenger vehicles and BART, S.F. MUNI, Caltrain and other heavy- and light-rail trains.
Earlier this year, a driver, his daughter and his grandson were killed in Sacramento when the driver attempted to dart though a railroad crossing before a light-rail train arrived. Unfortunately, theirs was just one in a long line of accidents. A study by the Sacramento Bee showed that train crashes like this happen once every few months in Sacramento County. Although the Bee only looked at one county, accident rates are thought to be similar in other parts of the state.
Risk Stems From Impatience and Confusion
The risk of accident can be particularly great at intersections that host both passenger and freight trains. In some cases, motorists will wait several minutes for a freight train to pass and then sit befuddled while the intersection appears clear but the crossing arms remain down. They don't realize that a passenger train is just moments away.
It is in these situations that the temptation to drive around the crossing arms appears to be the greatest. In some cases, drivers may mistakenly think they have enough time to make it across before the next train comes. In others, they may not even be aware of the second train and may simply believe that the crossing arm is broken.
Safety advocates have proposed a number of infrastructure changes to help reduce the rate of train-versus-car accidents. Some say that transit agencies should install a second set of crossing arms at intersections, in order to block drivers from driving around the barriers on the wrong side of the street. Others are calling on train companies to install signs warning drivers that more than one train may be crossing the intersection.
At the end of the day though, a combination of education and patience may be the best way to solve the problem. California drivers need to understand that it is never safe to cross over a set of train tracks when the crossing arms are down.
Article provided by Mitchell Law Firm
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