Three Caltrain Pedestrian Deaths in One Week on Peninsula

The San Francisco Bay Area has significant public transportation system assets. WIth such systems as BART and Caltrain, many motorists are able to get to work and play without getting into a car and off our congested roads to use public transportation instead.

As California personal injury lawyers, we have represented injured victims and their families for decades. We want to help you and your family with safety over the busy holiday season. This week we focus on train safety.

Tragically, this past week two people died in different incidents on Caltrain tracks. One death occurred in the mid-morning hours at one of the Palo Alto stations. Another person died in the same station just last week. In this incident, a northbound “baby bullet” train struck the victim at the California Avenue station. Shortly after this incident, a southbound train hit a pedestrian near the Menlo Park station and that individual was also killed. The prior week, another person was struck by a train at the California Avenue station.

According to Caltrain, thus far this year there have been a total of 16 deaths on the train tracks. In 2009, 19 people were killed on Caltrain’s tracks and in 1995 the highest pedestrian death toll for the agency reached 20.

We do not know the circumstances surrounding these tragic deaths. The Caltrain website has a great deal of information about how to stay safe around train tracks. Given the holiday season and the fact that there will be instances in which the public takes the train rather than driving … a good choice if drinking is involved … we want our readers to review the suggestions for avoiding train track injury or death that are found on the Caltrain website.

The trains are very large and heavy and they take more than one half-mile to stop. Additional trains can be put on the schedule due to ball games and other events which means that you cannot rely on the schedule to determine whether you can safely cross a track. A train could come at any time. Caltrain cautions that pedestrians should use only the public crossings to cross a track which are designated.

The use of cell phones and headphones is so common now that it is necessary to remind ourselves that a text can wait and it is very important to remain very alert around train tracks. If you are near a track, it is very important to look in both ways, like on a street crossing, before crossing the train tracks. Do not cross the tracks in any location other than a public crossing. These are marked.

Trains can be difficult to hear says Caltrain, particularly when they are in the “push” mode going northbound which means the engine is at the back of the train pushing it forward.

The trains reach very high speeds of up to about 79 miles per hour. As noted by Caltrain, at top speed a train covers the “length of a football field in less than three seconds.”

As for drivers, anyone living near the Caltrain tracks or driving around them, has likely seen vehicles that sit on the tracks while they wait for a red light. This is very dangerous. Drivers must ensure that they do not travel across the tracks unless there is enough space to do so without ending up stopping on or near the track. Remember the trains need more than just the space of the track to pass. They are wider than the tracks themselves. A train could come along at any time at high speed and your vehicle could be in its path.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident of any kind, the San Francisco personal injury lawyers of Hersh & Hersh are available for a free consultation to evaluate your legal rights. Please contact our California injury law firm to talk directly with a lawyer about your case.