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Caltrain crossing accident, problem, solution

From: domainremoved <Tesfatsion>
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 2015 00:13:40 +0000

Dear City Council Members:

I was really sad to hear about the woman killed by a train at a crossing. Any needless death is a shame to any civilized society especially one that’s as educated and as affluent as Menlo Park.

I was asking myself many questions as to why a woman who heard the alarm indicating oncoming train would stay there instead of driving around the gate, through the gate or backing up. Then I asked myself, why was she even there in the first place if she heard the alarm?

Then, I found myself in a similar situation in Redwood City and I experienced what she experienced: Terror. The second I crossed the gate, the alarm sounded and the gates came down immediately behind my car. I was terrified. Should I drive? What if the train is already nearby and it kills me? Should I stay?

Luckily, everything went fine. But, that’s when it hit me (the problem and a possible solution).

The problem: the ringing of the alarm sound and the lowering of the gates are almost simultaneous. She died because whoever designed the sequence did not think about the human element in their design. Experiencing an alarm that indicates an imminent death if one does not move completely changes how a person reacts and actually immobilizes the person.

The simplest solution is to allow the bell to ring 5-10 seconds before the gates come down so that when a person hears the bell they know they have a few seconds to make an escape (even backing up) instead of feeling like they are now locked between a car, a solid metal gate (at least that’s what it seems like) and their life will end in seconds.

A additional measure: Write on the actual gates “Do not stop on tracks. If train is coming, drive through gate.” Then sort out the insurance liabilities next with the person still alive not dead.

I know the city is working on some sort of “grade separation”, but I thought these would be simpler alternatives.

Please let me know if I shall present this in person. English is my second language so it may not be a clear.

Thank you,

Stanford Cardinal ’12
Received on Wed Aug 26 2015 - 17:11:57 PDT

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