The trouble with TRAX accidents

My 9-year-old son may have said it best last night. “I wish we could take out his brain and see what he was thinking.”

The aftermath of a recent collision between a truck and a TRAX train. (Deseret News archive photo.)

He was referring to the 17-year-old young man who stepped in front of a speeding TRAX train just moments before the train I was in approached from the other direction. We were stopped long enough to witness a distraught driver agonize over what had happened, then quickly whisked backward to another station. There, I huddled with about 30 fellow passengers in the chilly air, waiting for a special bus that took about 45 minutes to arrive and take us beyond the accident.

A “bridge” they call the bus. Everyone came home about an hour late. That’s life on mass transit, as many city dwellers can attest. Tragedy turns to inconvenience, and everyone involved feels a mixture of sadness and irritation.

I don’t want to dwell on Monday night’s incident. It may well have been a suicide, as official have said. We won’t ever know, without, as my son said, getting inside the victim’s head.

But this hasn’t been a pleasant few months for UTA, or for its regular commuters, who find themselves too often waiting for “bridges” to get them home.

I spoke with Gerry Carpenter, UTA’s spokesman, about what seems to be a growing safety problem. He agreed with the assessment, noting it seems as if every other week since July has brought some sort of “incident.”

Then he added this: “If we quantified the number of near misses our drivers have to deal with every day, it would be staggering.”

So what’s going on? It’s mid-February, but TRAX already has had five incidents this year, including two collisions with cars that ran red lights, one of which derailed a train and caused several hours of delays.

Every single incident last year was avoidable, Carpenter said. People just need to look up.

The irony is that UTA launched a safety campaign last fall to try to make things better. Trains have colorful banners and signs, some stations have new pedestrian gates and signs. The messages are all the same — pay attention.

But we live in a world where attention is an ever-shrinking commodity. We want to pay it about as much as we want to pay taxes, and it seems about as useful as an eight-track tape player.

And who wants one of those when you can plug in an iPod?

No safety campaign ever could stop a determined and distraught person from deliberately jumping in front of a train. For the rest of us, however, being plugged in could equate to being plugged by any fast-moving object.

Carpenter said it all comes down to personal responsibility. If UTA can find a campaign that fixes that, it could solve a whole host of society’s ills.

Categories: Utah issues

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

2 comments

  1. Geoff Granfield

    This is another one of those cases that will be difficult for an auto accident attorney los angeles to defend. For one, it was clearly the fault of the truck driver to have hit on the gas when it was obvious the that train will not stop on its tracks just to give way for him.

  2. Dary Grimes

    I’ve seen some terrible apartment complex injury over the past weeks, but nothing beats this. I don’t think the truck driver could make an excuse out of this. It shows how irresponsible he was behind the wheels, so hopefully he was punished for this.

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