9601 Camp Bowie W. Blvd.
Fort Worth 76116
Safety is worth a trip around the world.
That’s the thinking of Australia’s TrackSAFE Foundation, which sent a delegation to consult with members of the American Association of Railroads and Fort Worth-based CTC Inc.
CTC Inc. specializes in railroad safety consulting. In 2016 the railroads association directed TrackSAFE to CTC for guidance on U.S. best practices in grade crossing safety, citing it as a leader in this category.
“We’re glad to get all these folks here,” said Rick Campbell, president of CTC. “We believe every crash is preventable.”
Fort Worth was the first stop on the TrackSAFE delegation’s tour. They were also scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., New York City and London.
Technology the delegation saw demonstrated in the meeting included a traffic signal camera that will allow a signal light to change in a dangerous situation; a stopped-on-tracks device that warns drivers when they are on the tracks and a train is coming; a warning system that advises drivers and pedestrians that even though one train has passed, another is close behind, and a wayside horn that projects the sound of the train horn down the roadway, toward drivers, are rather than down the tracks as the train approaches.
The visitors also saw field demonstrations of the wayside horn and four-quadrant gates, which close off the entrance and exit to railway crossings.
“We’re seeing motor incidents declining, but an increase in pedestrian accidents,” said David Shacklock of Metro Trains Melbourne, part of the delegation. “Too many people are paying more attention to cell phones, wearing headphones, than they are paying attention to their safety and their surroundings.”
Shacklock said his company has experimented with “another train coming.”
“We liked what we saw,” he said
He said his company is also interested in the four-quadrant gate system,
“perhaps in the rural areas or in heavy industry.”
“We want to understand the best practices in the U.S. and apply them to Australia,” said Naomi Frauenfelder, executive director of the TrackSAFE Foundation. “Rail use is growing, especially in the capital cities.”
Campbell said the United States started an aggressive safety system in 1981 that reduced accidents drastically for years. However, he said, in the past decade accidents have leveled off at about 2,000 a year. He said the main cause of accidents is related to driver distractions, such as cell phones, radios and even children.
“All of those distractions can get a driver stopped right on the tracks,” he said. “What do you do? Do you try to move the car? Abandon it? What if you have children or others you have to help get out?
“Our goal is to give people warning and not get them stuck at all. From the time the lights start flashing you have about 20 seconds to react.”
Among the most common ways to get caught on railroad tracks is to be in a line of traffic at a nearby traffic signal. A driver already across the tracks but stopped at the light often doesn’t realize the car behind him is on the tracks.
The traffic signal camera helps solve this problem.
The four-quadrant gate prevents drivers from going around the gates at railroad crossings to try to beat the train. Campbell said this is a common problem.
“That’s amazing that people would put their life and the lives of others at risk by doing that, but they do it all the time,” he said. “Remember, if it comes to a tie between a car and train, the train will win every time.”
Campbell also noted that it takes a train a mile or more to come to a stop once brakes are applied.
“And there’s no turning away for them. They are running on rails,” he said. “Sometimes common sense needs a push, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Frauenfelder said there has been a rise of near misses in her country.
“It’s seconds between something and an incident,” she said. “Those close calls can become accidents, and that’s what we want to prevent. We have thousands of near misses each year.”