What IS it with drivers and railroad crossings?!

A few days ago, in Compton, CA, there was a collision between the light-rail Metro Blue Line (a Los Angeles rail transit line) and a taxicab. It was late at night; the Blue Line train was “dead-heading”–there was only the operator in the train. There were five passengers and the cabbie in the taxi; all six people were killed in the collision.
The Blue Line has plenty of warning devices–lights, bells, horns on the trains, signs, gates, you name it!
The taxi driver drove alongside the train at high speed, and slipped through the gates that were down, trying to beat the train. (All of his passengers, apparently, had had too much to drink.)
The driver had: 1) Two convictions for drunk driving; 2) a suspended driver’s license; 3) no permit to operate a taxicab in the city of Compton.
What possesses people to do things like this???

I think you just answered your question…

Yer pal,

Do you mean that his fatal act was just another manifestion of his nature that produced the drunk-driving convictions, the suspended license, and driving a cab without a local permit?
If you do, he must have really been a bad apple!

Many railroad crossing accidents stem from the fact that some people are just too impatient to wait. In the Los Angeles area, many people think that the delay caused by the train is going to be lengthy (like a slow-moving freight).
A Blue Line Train clears an intersection in about a minute.

I just don’t think anyone is ever in that much of a hurry that they can’t wait 60 seconds.

Plenty of stone sober people get clobbered by trains with stunning frequency. I drove by an accident scene near Tucson last weekend minutes after it happened. There is a stop light just beyond the tracks and apparently a woman crossed the tracks behind stopped traffic. There wasn’t enough room for her to get her car completely off the tracks. She survived but the remains of her car are the most curious I had ever seen. virtually all the bodywork behind the front seats was gone but the wheels remained and the car was stitting upright on the road after being spun around.

It really gave me pause for thought because just the day before I was at a nearby crossing of the same tracks. I was about to cross but stopped short because I could not be sure there was room to get fully across. If the crossing bar had closed it would have hit the roof of the van but that’s a damn sight better than stopping on the tracks.

It’s your fault that I have no one to blame but myself.

Yeah, I think beating the train is kind of a sport for the shallow-end-o-the-gene-pool set. Trains have a reputation of being really slow and long - a reputation which is really not fair to apply to urban transit.
In Portland, OR, there are lots of people who like to dash right in front of the metro. Heaven forbid they would have to wait for all two of the cars to pass before they cross. About half a dozen have been killed so far. They say it’s partly because the train is so quiet, but I’d be quicker to blame it on the people. I mean c’mon, folks, you learned to look both ways before you cross the street before you could tie your shoes … do you think this doesn’t apply when there are railroad tracks lain into the street?

When I was about 7 or 8 my dad got an engineer friend of his to let my brother and me “drive” the train for a few hours one morning–meaning we got to sit in the engineer’s seat and blow the horn. I still get chills when I remember watching cars go around the gates with the train bearing down on them. It happened at nearly every crossing Morons.

Hearkening back to an earlier thread:

There must not have been enough warning labels on those crossing gates…

Just think of it as evolution in action.

Is it just me, or is MPSIMS slowly taking over the GQ forum?

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One of those little pointers they give in the drivers manual that people remember just long enough to pass a written exam. A driver is not supposed to start crossing the tracks until he/she has room to get off the tracks on the other side. Also, one is supposed to start crossing the tracks with enough momentum to carry them across, should the engine quit.

It’s funny, but it seems like people start feeling invulnerable when they’re driving. (I’m guilty, too.) People forget how easy it is to get yourself killed out there.

Of course, I know you people know this stuff already. I’m just venting.

I can understand this a bit. When I started to work downtown (Chicago) I realized a lot of drivers don’t give the correct right of way to pedestrians.

On one instance I was crossing legally and the bus driver couldn’t wait for us pedestrians to get out the way (he was turning left) so I kept crossing thinking “I have the right of way besides it says turning traffic must yield to pedestrians.”

After jumping out of the way to avoid getting hit I said “What am I an idiot this is a bus.”

So I can understand where people lose patience…Which brings me to another question…

Why don’t they put guards on both sides of the street across all lanes. That way it would be physically impossible to cross without smashing the gates…Unless you’re Beau or Luke Duke that is.

I think they are afraid that two-lane gates would trap cars between the gates as they fall. I don’t think this would happen nearly as often as goofballs end-running the gates, but I suppose an ounce of externally-imposed danger is worth a pound of self-imposed danger.

It’s trivial to design two-way gates to snap off or swing out easily. They’re all designed that way in Japan. A functional car has no problem getting out. Also, the left gate would come down many seconds after the right gate, allowing the car to get out of the crossing in plenty of time - unless there is a traffic jam on the other end, in which case the lack of a 2nd gate would not help you anyway.

Show someone this video, and they’re sure to understand the stupidity of trying to beat a train:

Great minds discuss ideas;
Average minds discuss events;
Small minds discuss people.

When I was a kid, there were actual working train tracks going through my home town. On one of the relatively rare occasions that a train would come through, the signal would sometimes start going a LONG time before the train was visible. These were not high speed commuter trains, either, they were slow freight. It was entirely likely that if you got up to the signal just as it started going off, and stopped, you might be waiting there five minutes or more for the train to arrive and pass completely through the intersection (this is a town where five minutes was entirely sufficient to travel from one end of town to the other on the main drag, so getting caught by a train was a significant delay). Also, the signal would continue going for a bit AFTER the train was clear.

This meant that people were a little… shall we say cavalier… in their attitudes towards the signal. Yes, we knew we were supposed to stop, but hey… when I can look both ways for three blocks and not see a train, and when I know from experience that the train is going to be moving MAYBE twenty miles per hour tops anyway, it’s very tempting to decide just to go on through (some crossings had gates and some just had signals; most people wouldn’t go around the gates but they WOULD zip through the signal-only crossings).

Now, you take someone who’s been used to that environment and put them someplace where the gates don’t go down until it really IS unsafe to try to cross, and where the trains are moving 40 MPH minimum, and you’re going to see more accidents.

But in this specific case I think the cab driver was just an idiot.