Drivers and pedestrians who get too close to railroad tracks or end up on them, whether accidentally or intentionally, don’t just endanger themselves. They put everyone in an oncoming train at risk as well.
Every year, law enforcement agencies and railroads throughout the country participate in “Operation Clear Track.”
Raising awareness of laws involving train tracks and crossings
The purpose of the event is to enforce grade-crossing and trespassing laws and raise awareness about acting safely near tracks and crossings. Law enforcement agencies use it to amp up warnings and citations to those who violate these laws — often unknowingly.
The annual event, which occurs in late September, was started five years ago to reduce the number of serious and fatal injuries on U.S. railroad tracks. These number about 2,000 every year. Although they’re widely disbursed throughout the country, most deaths involving Amtrak trains are in the Northeast Corridor.
Amtrak’s Chief of Police says that “trespassing on train tracks is not only dangerous, but it’s also illegal in all 50 states. He adds, “Every time someone trespasses on the tracks, it can lead to devastating results which impact someone’s life, their family, and the community at large.”
The psychological toll on engineers of “death by train”
Many pedestrians who are killed on train tracks are there intentionally. In a story two years ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “Death by train.” In addition to the risk of physical injuries that railroad employees can experience while braking to keep from striking someone on the tracks, there’s the emotional toll that fatally injuring a person on the tracks causes engineers.
A number of them reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some leave the job permanently. Many railroads give engineers just three days off after fatally striking someone. However, as one psychologist who works with transit operators in New York City says, “Three days is nothing. You need some time to both process it and get comfortable.”
Seeking coverage for psychological care under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), just as under any workers’ compensation program, can be more challenging than getting compensation for physical injuries. If you’re suffering from work-related PTSD or other mental health condition that prevents you from doing your job, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.