Safety statistics for Utah's light rail train system TRAX recently released by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) show that while safety is improving, people continue to be their own worst enemies when it comes to preserving life and limb. The TRAX system has 41 stations and there is one safety incident every 74 seconds. That statistic despite a concerted year long campaign by UTA to improve mass transit safety in Utah.
The safety campaign came on the heels of tragic rash of fatal accidents and the disclosure that the 5-year accident rates for UTA was twice as high as those of similar sized transit agencies. The safety push involved aggressive advertising and awareness campaigns, the implementation of a ban on "distracted walking," and redesign/re-signing of train crossings and platforms. Specifics involved moving to flashing train logo warning lights to alert drivers when trains are in the area, removing or rebuilding sound walls to improve sight lines for pedestrians, installing alarms and gates where pedestrians can see them better, and installing fences at new stations that pedestrians have to walk around so if they are "walking distracted," they walk into a fence rather than a train.
The overall impact of the safety campaign seems to be improvement on many fronts. Serious injuries dropped 20 percent and fatalities, including suicides, dropped 33 percent. But "serious incidents" on TRAX, mostly car involved versus incidents involving bicyclists or pedestrians, increased slightly. Although noting the agency is moving in the right direction, UTA recognizes that it still needs to improve. And in this regard, my favorite reminder is one adage that the train operators think of often: "If you have to run for a train, it's not your train." Brilliant.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.