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Stop, Look and Listen

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stop, Look and Listen

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
April 19, 2010

Railroad Crossing

That's what I grew up with in the St. Louis area, when it came to crossing railroad tracks. Now, with rail crossing gates, bells and flashing lights, I have grown careless along with millions of other drivers, lulled into a false complacency that the lights will flash and the gates will come down before a train reaches a crossing.

And now?

From now on I shall look, before I drive across any set of railroad tracks. Friday evening's train-car tragedy in University Park, Illinois is a wake-up call. The gates don't always come down. Dance teacher Katie Lunn, 26, didn't have a chance, when an Amtrak train struck her vehicle. Drivers in front of her and behind her say the crossing warnings did not work.

What warning in the locomotive is there, if any, to alert an engineer to a failure of the crossing gates and lights to activate? Media are reporting that maintenance crews were at the crossing earlier in the day. Did they work on the activation system?

Day or night, slow down and look both ways. Don't just "look"; see whether a train is approaching. Act as if you expect a train to be approaching. Your brain will say, "No train, no train." You must over-ride that automatic signal. Just because a train has never crossed in front of you without activating the warnings signals, it's time to change your thinking.

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