Public awareness programs can do a lot to reduce accidents. In San Diego, Trolley’s campaign to reduce accidents in its Centre City area several years ago — in partnership with the San Diego Police Department’s Video Training Unit — they produced public service announcements (PSAs) played on local television stations. The only cost was for videotape.
San Diego Police provided the equipment and editing facility, San Diego Trolley provided the script and talent, and the local television stations played the videos as part of their FCC commitment to air public service announcements. Teamwork got the safety message out to more than 3 million residents for the cost of videotape.
What Is The Answer?
The short answer is commitment. You have to be committed to looking at all factors that contribute to collisions. You can train your operators to be defensive drivers, but if the traffic signals along your alignment aren’t clear to motorists, you are making it more difficult for operators to have a safe trip.
If you have great signs warning drivers that they are approaching a track but they are blocked by trees or get lost in a sea of other signs, you are not helping them.
If you have great signs and signals but lack enforcement, then you leave the door open for drivers to ignore all of them.
It takes commitment from all stakeholders. That may mean you have to form a task force to make sure issues get addressed. That might include your authority, law enforcement, public works, DOT and any private sector groups that can help you mitigate risk.
Finally, live by the word, “anticipate.” Operators need to constantly anticipate that drivers and pedestrians around them are going to end up in front of them. We need to anticipate that people aren’t going to know they are near a rail system and that we need to do our best to place signs and signals that will help them with that realization.
We need to anticipate that the people we hire to operate our equipment safely may not have all the tools they need and that we have to develop comprehensive training programs that give them the right tools.
Duane Sayers is the director of rail transporation for Houston Metro.