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Are Maryland authorities doing enough to prevent train track deaths?

Commuting by train is an environmentally friendly, relatively convenient way to travel in Maryland. It's also a relatively safe way to travel. What is not safe when it comes to trains, however, is for pedestrians to cross the tracks.

In an intriguing report out of Washington, sources discuss the startling reality that fatal accidents on train tracks have increased significantly in the state over the past few years, specifically in Montgomery County. The statistics of train accidents leading to pedestrian injury and death has some in the community wondering whether state officials need to do more to protect its residents.

According to sources, compared to 2009, there were three times as many accidents, some fatal, that occurred on train tracks last year. Those who were hurt or killed on the tracks are referred to as "trespassers," meaning that they were on the tracks for a reason other than to board the train. Someone crossing the track as a shortcut, for example, is considered a trespasser.

Safety and transportation experts are bothered by the high rate of train track accidents and reportedly are uncertain about why the rate has climbed. One source suggests that just like with many car accidents, these track accidents are caused by distraction.

Our report doesn't provide evidence, however, about whether crash victims were using cell phones or other technological devices before they were hit. Research does indicate that the average victim is in his or her 40s or 50s, making it seem less likely that cell phone or iPod use is directly related to the crash trend.

If the rate of train track trespassing accidents continues to rise, it seems logical that safety and transportation authorities would have to evaluate safety precautions used throughout the state to prevent further tragedies and facing personal injury lawsuits.

As of now, however, there are no solid plans to add more warning signs or other safety devices along tracks throughout the state. Safety advocates' main strategy at this point is to get the word out via media outlets, including social media, that trespassing across tracks is dangerous, often fatal.

Source "Data: More deaths on Md. Train tracks," Molly Born, 23 Jul. 2011

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