UTA cracks down on safety measures

(Courtesy of: Utah Transit Authority) Communter Rail known as the Front Runner carries passengers from Ogden to Provo.
(Source: Utah Transit Authority) The commuter rail known as the FrontRunner carries passengers from Ogden to Provo.

Douglas Crow, a 69-year-old Brigham Young University custodian from Provo, was riding his bike near a FrontRunner railroad crossing in the early morning after Valentine’s Day when he was reportedly hit by an Escalade, pushing him directly into the path of the oncoming FrontRunner train. Though Crow was transported to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, he died shortly thereafter.

This was one of many Utah Transit Authority-related accidents in the past few years. FrontRunner, TRAX and buses have all had their turns with both vehicles and pedestrians, ranging from incidences of reported suicides, pedestrian carelessness and, in one case, a woman trying to help someone who fell off a scooter.
“The most important thing is to pay attention, to follow all of the safety implements that are in place,” said Chad Saley, a spokesman for UTA. “If crossing arms are down and red lights are flashing, don’t cross, don’t walk in front of the train. I think that most of our incidents could be prevented if people would just follow the safety rules and laws that are out there.”
In regards to incidences similar to Crow’s, Saley said it is hard for the trains to stop.
“It’s very different from a car,” he said.
UTA’s official website, RideUTA.com, includes information about several safety programs started by the governmental agency, including Bus Safety, Park & Ride Safety, UTA Public Safety and Transit Watch.
UTA has also been looking to get the message across to the public in ways that everyone understands: with fees. It has adopted an ordinance stating that a person caught doing such things as talking or texting on a cell phone, listening to a portable music device, reading or attending to personal grooming near a train crossing can be fined by UTA police — for $50 on the first offense and $100 on any following offenses.
Another program, Operation Lifesaver Utah, deals directly with safety measures surrounding railroads themselves. Operation Lifesaver Utah strives to emphasize education, engineering and enforcement to combat the growing accident rate. Mason Haycock is the Operation Lifesaver Utah area coordinator for Utah County, where Crow had his encounter with FrontRunner.
Still, even as UTA and others strive to get the accident rate to decline, Utah has begun to see signs of individuals who aren’t as optimistic. Paul Benson, a personal injury attorney, has dedicated an entire page of his website to addressing future clients.
Weber State University junior Sara Eskelson said past accidents do not deter her from taking the bus.
“I love taking the bus to school during the day . . . the people are nice and courteous, (and) it saves me about $200 or $300 a month to ride the bus and not drive.”