Valhalla, NY: Political fallout of fatal commuter train collision mounts

9 Feb

Further political interventions are following the Valhalla level crossing collision that killed five passengers and a motorist on February 3rd, 2015. Now US Representative Nita Lowey, Democrat-Westhester/Rockland has set out the actions she is pursuing in order to reduce risk at level crossings.

Her first line of attack is through more effective education of motorists, building on the Operation Lifesaver programme to ensure that when someone is “trapped” on a level crossing when barriers descend they know what to do. Simpistically, the message is immediately drive forward and exit the crossing. Fundamentally, there is a bigger education goal – to ensure that motorists understands that they should only cross the railway when their exit is assured through there being sufficient space beyond the level crossing to accommodate the vehicle in question.

The second strand of Ms Lowey’s call for further action to reduce the risk arising at level crossings is through greater enforcement against those who drive onto a level crossing when their exit from it is not assured.

The third element of Ms Lowey’s call to action is through the adoption of new technology to reduce risk at level crossings. In reality, the technology is there today but has been slow to be adopted as there are greater priorities for the funding. This is inevitable when level crossing risk forms only 1-2% of highway risk. Nonetheless, it is incumbent on all concerned to determine at which level crossings it would be appropriate to use, for example, radar to prove a crossing is clear of any obstruction. Further opportunities exist through road traffic signal preemption.

Ms Lowey recognises the need for greater federal funding if the three strands are to be pursued. Menwhile, Ms Lowey led a moment of silence on February 4th, 2015 with other New York state colleagues on the floor of the US House of Representatives to show their regard for the victims of the Valhalla accident. Ms Lowey also issued a statement which said: “My thoughts are with the victims of this horrible accident, I offer my deep condolences to their families, and I pray for the recovery of those who were injured tonight [February 3rd, 2015]. I thank our first responders and have been in contact with the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, which quickly deployed to the scene.”

2 Responses to “Valhalla, NY: Political fallout of fatal commuter train collision mounts”

  1. Andrew Fraser February 9, 2015 at 08:59 #

    Education? Enforcement? (The usual suspects.) They haven’t worked before, why should they work now? “The technology is there … but there are greater priorities for funding.” So we waste funding on “education” and “enforcement”. This isn’t making much sense.

    • aidannelson February 9, 2015 at 17:23 #

      What’s needed is a balanced approach with targeted education and enforcement sitting alongside engineered solutions, pretty much the story says. The issue with engineered solutions is that from a road safety perspective, there are greater priorities in terms of lives saved for a given investment in infrastructure. This is pretty much as Ms Lowey has said and I have reported. Also, there is evidence that correctly targeted education and enforcement can change behaviours .

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