- Flashing red lights indicate a train is approaching from either direction. You can be fined for failure to obey these signals. Never walk around or behind lowered gates at a crossing, and DO NOT cross the tracks until the lights have stopped flashing and it’s safe to do so.
- Be aware trains do not follow set schedules. Any Time is Train Time!
- Trains and cars don’t mix. Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
- The train you see is closer and faster moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
- Never drive around lowered gates — it’s illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
- Do not get trapped on the tracks; proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
- If your vehicle ever stalls on a track with a train coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
- At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
- When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping. Remember it isn’t safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
- Today’s trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale “clackety-clack.” Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster, than you think.
- Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.
Salt Lake Community College student Mirian Contreras was struck and killed by a TRAX train as she was leaving the Meadowbrook Campus on Monday, May 14.
The police ruled it a “case of distraction” as it was shown on the on-board train camera that she had her head down as she stepped in front of the oncoming train.
Contreras was enrolled in the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program at SLCC. Many describe her as smart, hardworking and ambitious.
“Imagine if this was your sister, your aunt, your loved one,” said Laura Cano, SLCC student and friend of Contreras who was upset about comments that said Contreras was careless. “Just to throw rocks like that is thoughtless.”
Contreras was a single mother who left behind two young children. Her daughters were living in Mexico at the time of her death. She had been sending money to them in order for them to receive the best care and attend quality schools in Mexico.
TRAX train incidents
There have been a number of TRAX train incidents recently in part due to distractions of victims.
According to Gerry Carpenter, Spokesman for UTA, there were conflicting accounts from eyewitnesses on the scene. Some say that she was reading a book; others say she was on the phone. The quality of the video from the on-board camera wasn’t clear enough for investigators to identify the scenario.
UTA does not post accidents on their website but according to Carpenter there have been a total of 17 TRAX related incidents since January of this year. Twelve of those incidents involved motorist and five involved pedestrians.
Carpenter said they are very concerned with the rise in the number of TRAX accidents. They are in the process of implementing policies whereby their police will ticket anyone in a distracted state near a TRAX train station.
Whether it’s talking or texting on a cellphone or wearing a hoodie, the person will be fined up to $50 for the first offense, $100 thereafter. They are hoping to educate the public about how important safety is in this matter.
Safety concerns around TRAX
Carpenter said that there are two parts to safety, the first one is engineering to make sure all the gated crossings, alarms and alerts are all working properly. The second he said is educating the public to promote safe behavior around the trains.
UTA works with a non-profit organization called Operation Lifesaver that goes out to schools and classrooms to inform and instruct the public about preventing injuries and fatalities around trains. Carpenter said that UTA would be willing to work with SLCC in providing this type of education for its students.
“I did know that the school put this sign out here and I think it’s a waste of paper and money because we already know that you don’t walk out there and stand in front of a train, that’s common knowledge,” said George Lange, HVAC instructor at SLCC. “In her case what might have saved her is something that would have drawn her attention.”
Students and faculty from the HVAC department are all concerned about safety around TRAX and are also saddened by what happened to Contreras and worry that it could happen again. Lange expressed his concern over the matter, stating that she must have been focused on something for her not to have noticed the alarms, that she was a bright person and that this could happen to anyone.
“If there is a safety system for cars, why is there not something similar for people,” asked Victor Morales, a friend and co-student of Contreras’ who has been trying to raise awareness for the family. “If there is a physical barrier for cars to stop, why is it there is nothing for people, to physically stop you from walking in?”
Awareness and help for the family
One of Morales’ goals is to bring awareness to the safety matter around TRAX trains. He discussed safety measures put into place in many major cities to prevent pedestrian accidents like this from happening. His hope is that UTA looks into some of these measures and adopts them before another accident like this happens again.
“We want to improve the safety of TRAX for everybody’s benefit,” said Morales. “We want to help the two little girls with the basics and we want people to be aware that Mirian would be here if the safety would have been improved a long time ago.”
Morales is also concerned about Contreras’ two daughters and has been trying to set up a donation through the school. He is trying to organize a fundraiser that will go to support them and their monetary needs since Contreras was the sole provider for her daughters.
“She was nearing completion of her program so we were able to make arrangements that the college will be issuing a posthumous certificate of completion,” said Kevin Miller, Director of Student Affairs at SLCC. “She has two young children so this will be part of the legacy that will be available for them.”
“She was just a top notch student, cut way too short,” Miller said.
Contact Victor Morales at 801-367-7139 for more information on upcoming fundraisers for the family and how you can help with his efforts. An account has been set up through Wells Fargo bank under Mirian Contreras and children memorial fund.