Originally created 02/08/02

Railroad safety advised



If motorists would obey the laws, train-related accidents often wouldn't happen, said Steve Purvis, a CSX law enforcement officer.

Mr. Purvis attended a Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting in Columbia County to talk about Operation Lifesaver - a program used to inform the public about safety at railroad crossings.

"The information is there and is preached to as many people as it can be preached to," Mr. Purvis said.

He also commented on the Harlem train accident that killed a woman in mid-January. The responsibility for that accident, Mr. Purvis said, belongs to engineers and the motorist.

"That's just an accident that should not have happened," he said. "There was a violation of the law, yes, but there was an engineering problem."

By law, he said, Carlene Flakes should have stopped no less than 15 feet and no more than 50 feet from the railroad. Ms. Flake's van was hit while she was stopped at a stop sign.

The stop sign where Ms. Flakes stopped to turn onto Gordon Highway is about 5 feet from the road and 8 to 10 feet from the track. If a stop sign forces a motorist to stop less than 15 feet from a track, is that motorist still in violation of the law?

"I don't know," Mr. Purvis said.

During Thursday's meeting, Mr. Purvis showed attendees a video that simulated various accidents where motorists were at fault. Before showing the video, however, he said train-related accidents were down, but fatalities were up.

He attributed the lower numbers of accidents to a higher level of law enforcement by local authorities.

"Those people are paying hefty fines," he said. "It doesn't take too many of those to go around before people start complying with the law."

Reach Louie Villalobos at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109 or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.