This is an installment in an ongoing series titled "Reader Sound-Off" that will focus attention and conversation on readers' and NARP members' opinions on important rail and transportation issues.

Railroad collisions between trains and vehicles that have stalled in their paths are tragically common. While it can be the popular knee-jerk reaction to consequently limit train use or the reach of the country's train systems, perhaps there are other options.

Gary Kline, a railroad, transportation and travel enthusiast, feels that the responsibility for avoiding accidents can be shared by everyone, including car and truck drivers:

Regarding the trains that are involved in collisions with trucks and sometimes cars, we have to remember that the trains have a right to be on those tracks, the trucks/cars do not. I question whether or not they "stall" on the tracks. It is possible, maybe probable, that they stop on the tracks rather than stop at the line before they cross the tracks, which is what they are supposed to do.

At every railroad crossing here in Tucson (and we have quite a few), the signs at the railroad crossing tell you exactly what to do. As a driver/passenger in a car, I have stopped at the gates when they start to come down. The warning red signals start slightly before the gates come down, and more than enough time before the train crosses the road in front of us.

It is obvious to me that the truck/car drivers have the problem, not the trains. Also, the light on the front of the locomotive is always on, and the horn is always blowing. If the gates start to come down while I'm crossing the tracks, my response would be to go forward; or, if I can't do that, go to either side to get out of the way of the train.

But, of course, if you're on your phone (which I don't do when I drive), then you are totally oblivious to the world around you anyhow.

"The drivers never see the trains," admitted Diljiet Sanduh, Metrolink supervisor, in an interview with KABC-TV concerning a recent train and road vehicle collision that led to a derailment in Los Angeles.

The collision happened when an eastbound vehicle turned north onto the tracks as a light-rail Metro train that had been running parallel to the car approached. Twenty-one people were injured in the accident. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department Twitter account, of those 21, 10 were transported to hospitals for treatment.

Sanduh said there are signals for both the train and the car, yet the car still made an improper turn, seemingly echoing Kline's beliefs about how some accidents occur. In response to similar incidents, Kline believes more can be done to address the problem then to simply blame trains:

Here in Tucson, I was glad to see an elevated crossing constructed to carry Prince Road over the railroad tracks. I would like to see more of those constructed in the future, not only here, but elsewhere. Elevated crossings are also on Park Ave., Orange Grove Rd., 22nd St. and Miracle Mile.

I think trains are very much in the future of the United States, in concert with cars, buses and planes, to transport people all over the country. … To have just one or two methods of travel in our country is very shortsighted. Congress needs to make sure Amtrak is adequately funded and focus on what is good for the American people and our country, and do it now.

It only gets more expensive if Congress delays adequate funding. Residents in even the smallest town in America must be able to easily access long- and short-distance modes of transportation.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, the number of total accidents/incidents — although having experienced a steady drop in number in the past decade has recently seen a spike upward. The number of total accidents in 2014 was 11,793, which is 206 more than the previous year's number of 11,587. Clearly, there is an issue that needs attention.

As far as educated drivers and the general public, the organization Operation Lifesaver has consistently offered community rail safety education opportunities. According to its website, Operation Lifesaver's "mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on rail property through a nationwide network of volunteers who work to educate people about rail safety."

As far as the option of elevated tracks or roadways that can give vehicles and/or trains the opportunity to go around, over or under each other, the biggest obstacle seems to be cost. However, if it means that lives can be saved, is any price too high?

What are your opinions?

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