- R.F Wittmeyer
- April 20, 2018
Millions of trips every year take people from the suburbs into the city of Chicago and back home again. Metra trains pull into many town squares throughout the suburbs. The Union Pacific Northwest line runs through downtown Arlington Heights with an additional stop at Arlington Park. Families heading to Blues Fest, the theater, and sporting events every day. Metra serves more than 100 communities with 241 stations on 11 lines running from Chicago’s downtown. And although safety is Metra’s #1 concern, unfortunately, accidents happen.
Fatalities and Metra Related Deaths
The above Metra related deaths are only five of the many more that occurred in the last year. In November 2017, Metra acknowledged that many of the deaths that occur on their tracks are related to suicide. According to Chicago Magazine’s Metra Is Trying Something New to Curb Its Suicide Problem, “few rail services have felt the urgency to address the issue as intensely as Metra, which tallied 23 confirmed or suspected suicides along its routes from January to late October” of 2017.
According to Ian Savage, a professor at Northwestern University professor, the Federal Railroad Administration did not perform a baseline gauge of railroad transit deaths until 2011. He states that “It’s like a sports game, and we’re walking in at the first quarter.”
Where Do These Accidents Occur?
Unfortunately, no Metra line is immune from these accidents. Below are several examples of such unfortunate deaths:
- On Tuesday, February 6, 2018, Tracey Currie, a 29 year-old man, was struck by a Metra Union Pacific-North Line train at the North Chicago Station while walking towards a waiting car. Currie later died.
- On Monday, March 5, 2018, a 15-year-old from Western Springs was killed when he was struck by a cargo train on the BNSF tracks just West of the Central Avenue pedestrian crossing. The police’s preliminary investigation suggested that the 15-year-old had ran into the path of the train that was traveling East.
- On Wednesday, March 7, 2018, an express train struck and killed a pedestrian near the Riverside station heading towards Downers Grove. According to the initial investigation and a statement made by Riverside police Chief Tom Weitzel, it is suspected that “a male pedestrian stepped in front of the train.”
- On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, a man was struck by a southbound Metra train when he stepped onto the tracks. The engineer operating the train was unable to stop the 70 mile-per-hour train in time.
If you or someone you know has been hurt or died after an accident involving a Metra train, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today for a free consultation.
Preventing Suicides on Metra Lines
In September 2017, Metra made a statement at the platforms of its 11 lines. They added posters stating “You Are Not Alone” along with a hotline number. Metra made their statement in accordance with Breaking the Silence. This program includes a daylong symposium bringing together mental health experts, rail officials, and safety advocates.
According to Lanny Wilson, chair of the DuPage Railroad Safety Council, the fact that Metra is having this conversation is admirable. “Just a few years ago, people said, ‘There’s nothing we can do about suicides in rail deaths.’ Now it’s: ‘What are we going to do about suicides?’”
While suicides do account for a portion of the Metra related deaths that occur yearly, many also die due to a lack of safety.
How to Be Safe While Waiting for the Train
According to Metra’s website, safety is their number one priority. In support of this mission, Metra uses Operation Lifesaver and crossing enforcement blitzes. These programs allow Metra’s Safety Department to work daily to educate the public about the importance of safety. Specifically, Operation Lifesaver directs nearly 1,000 programs for schools, bus drivers, truck drivers, emergency personnel, and other organizations.
To further this mission of providing safe commutes for passengers, Metra is planning to add an additional safety system to the BNSF line in Summer 2018. Positive Train Control, or PTC, aims to stop a train when the train engineer blows a signal or if the train goes above the speed limit. Panels are still being heard regarding the implementation of the new program.
But in the meantime, according to Operation Lifesaver, here are five safety tips to follow when traveling by train:
- Always be alert. Trains are fast moving and come out of nowhere very quietly. Be aware of your surroundings, obey warning signs, and use caution and care when utilizing headphones or cellphones.
- Never sit on the edge of the train platform.
- Mind the gap on the platform’s edge. Pay attention to painted or raised markings at the platform edge, and stay at least three feet from the train while it is coming in or out of the station. Be mindful of the gap between the train and the platform.
- Brace yourself! When on the train, be sure to hold onto a pole or seat. Be sure to mind the directions of the conductor.
- Follow the rules. Be sure to abide by the instructional signs and markings that let you know where to go.
- Never, ever cross the tracks! Not only is this illegal, it is also incredibly dangerous.