The Utah Transit Authority launched a safety campaign last fall. It features colorful banners and signs, media spots and, at some stations, new pedestrian gates and signs.
The message could be summed up in two words — pay attention. If you’re not looking, you might get smacked by a train.
The result has been virtually no drop in accidents at all. As of a couple of weeks ago, there had been five accidents with TRAX trains this year, and that didn’t include last week’s fatal bus-pedestrian accident downtown. Last year there were 24 with TRAX and two with FrontRunner, including 10 in which motorists tried to go around safety arms at crossings.
As any modern parent knows, attention is in short supply these days.
But never fear — the Legislature is riding to the rescue.
SB195, sponsored by Sen. Karen Mayne, would add to the things that already are illegal to do around a railroad crossing. You wouldn’t be able to make a U-turn on a track or crossing, for instance.
Pedestrians would not be allowed to remain on a railroad crossing after the train has passed, except for the brief time it takes to walk across it.
All of this is well intentioned, but come on. If radio spots and colorful signs don’t get people to unplug themselves and pay attention, some new law in a book isn’t going to do it.
I could see SB195 being a tool that perhaps helps police keep some people out of harm’s way. But it’s already illegal to walk or drive over a crossing barrier when it’s down. The folks who do so anyway don’t seem to pause and think, “Oh wait, there’s a law against that.” Don’t sell this as something that will make the rails safer.
For that, UTA would need some transmitting device that overrides whatever is on your iPod or car radio and screams out a warning when you’re near a rail and a train is bearing down.