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Our View: Trains and safety

Published: Friday, June 27, 2014 10:55 p.m. CDT

Train-related accidents are “one of the most avoidable accidents there are,” according to Mark Davis, spokesman with Union Pacific.

That premise is based on people exercising sound judgment to stay away from tracks in the first place.

Sadly, that is not always the case. On May 31, Parker Wolfsmith, an eighth-grader at Harter Middle School, died after being struck by a Union Pacific train in Maple Park.

Last week, Maple Park Police Chief Mike Acosta said Wolfsmith likely was engaging in “breezing,” an ill-advised, thrill-seeking activity in which people try to come close enough to a moving train to feel a breeze.

What a terrible way for a young life to come to an end. Parents and educators in the area should point to this tragic incident as an attention-getter, underscoring the danger of lingering near railroad tracks. 

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez said he would like to see more education in area schools about safety near railroad tracks.

“I think we should do it at a young age, too,” Perez said. “Put it in their mind in elementary and middle school.”

A wealth of train safety information is available on Union Pacific’s website at www.uprr.com/she/safety/upcares/index.shtml. 

A form also is on the site, through which schools and organizations can request a presentation on railroad safety.

As avoidable as casualties along train tracks are, that is no longer the case once a person – intentionally or accidentally – is in an oncoming train’s path. Davis said it takes a 100-car train traveling 60 mph about a mile and a half to stop.

Instances of people pushing their luck around trains happen more than you might think.

The accident that ended Wolfsmith’s life at age 14 is a gut-wrenching reminder of the potentially dire consequences.

“We’d hate for them to get hurt,” Davis said. “Our train crews day in and day out see people that take chances, and for them, it’s a very sinking feeling that people do that.”

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