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Train Hits Car In Franklin County, KS; Seriously Injures Baldwin City WomanSeveral sources, including KMBC-TV, The Topeka Capital Journal, and the Lawrence Journal-World & News, have reported that a 43-year-old Baldwin City woman was hurt badly when her 2004 Ford Explorer was struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train near Wellsville in Franklin County, Kansas.

From the Topeka Capital Journal:

Franklin County Sheriff Craig Davis said the woman was driving south about 12:10 p.m. in the 4300 block of Shawnee Road when she crossed the railroad tracks in a 2004 Ford Explorer and collided with an eastbound train.

Davis said the Baldwin City woman had to be extricated from the vehicle by members of the Wellsville Fire Department and the Franklin County Ambulance Service. The driver was transported by air ambulance at the scene to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., with unspecified injuries.

The woman’s name wasn’t released by authorities.

There weren’t any other occupants in the vehicle.

Davis said the Ford was destroyed by the train, which received only minor damage.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the woman involved in this tragic collision and her family.

Railroad companies are responsible making sure their train crossings are safe. That means the crossings have proper sight lines and visibility that allow drivers to see approaching trains, that trees and vegetation are cut back, that railroads do not park trains near the crossing (that would confuse drivers), that signals and gates are working properly, and that train crews sound a warning with the train’s horn or whistle as the train is approaching.

These train-vehicle collisions are a tragic reminder of how dangerous railroad crossings can be. In the last 10 years, there have been more than 30,000 railroad crossing accidents and more than 3,600 train accident deaths.

These train accidents can have many causes, including:

  • Failure of the railroad company to install proper warnings, such as lights, alarms (crossing bells) or a functioning crossing gate

  • Defective warnings — inoperable lights, bells or gates

  • Improper sight lines that prevent a vehicle’s driver from seeing an oncoming train until it is too late

  • Failure to properly maintain the crossing — such as allowing overgrown trees, vegetation and other foliage to obstruct or hide an oncoming train

  • Improperly parking a train at or near a crossing — this not only hides an oncoming train from view, but gives motorists a false sense of safety in seeing a parked train at the crossing

  • Failure to sound the train’s horn or whistle at or near the crossing

  • Other negligence that may appear on the train’s data recorder or video recorder

It takes a skilled team of investigators and experts to identify critical information.

Railroad companies need to do more to prevent these tragic collisions that kill. Unfortunately, some railroad companies attempt to cover up their role in causing these tragedies rather than implement safety improvements to prevent them.

In October, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad was hit with a $4 million penalty — on top of a $21.6 million jury verdict — because of its "staggering" pattern of misconduct that included destroying evidence in an attempted cover-up of its role in the deaths of four young people who were killed at one of its railroad crossings.

The Court found that BNSF destroyed some evidence, fabricated other evidence, interfered with the investigation and purposefully lied and advanced misleading facts in order to conceal the truth.

Railroad companies should be held accountable for dangerous railroad crossings that injure and kill. Is there a different set of rules for railroad companies than for everyone else? Railroad companies need to stop putting profits in front safety.

You can learn more about how to protect yourself at railroad crossings by visiting our safety blog or web site.

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