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Train accidents bring sorrow in Washington state

We want everyone in our beautiful state of Washington to be safe this year, so it's time to talk about railroad crossings. There's been a rash of accidents involving train accidents and pedestrians this year. The police say that five people were hit by trains within just three days -- and three of them were killed. That brings the total number of train-related fatalities this year to 19, which is higher than any in the last 20 years.

Some of those deaths were preventable. In at least one case, a 20-year-old restaurant worker was on a break when he was hit. He apparently had his hoodie raised and was wearing earbuds as he crossed the tracks -- so he neither heard nor saw the train coming.

One of the biggest problems with railway safety is that there are simply so many places now that train tracks and human beings intersect. Meanwhile, train safety measures often lag and innovative solutions to the problem aren't being explored.

Given how devastating a train accident can be, here are some safety reminders for anyone walking or driving near the railroad tracks:

  • Stop and look both ways before crossing the tracks. This applies whether you're walking or driving a vehicle, even when there is no barrier or warning signs at the crossing point. This is also true even if you don't hear a train coming.
  • If you are driving or walking, keep your earbuds out. You need to be able to hear what's around you for safety. In addition, wearing your earbuds makes it all-too-easy to get lost in thought or otherwise distracted.
  • Never race a train or take a chance. If you can hear or see the train, it's too close to risk crossing the tracks.

Not all train accidents are due to the victim's actions. Many could be prevented with better maintenance around the tracks, warning lights to signal a train's approach and other safety measures. Other train accidents are due to mechanical failure or driver error. If you were injured in a train accident or a loved one was killed, find out more about your legal options.

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