To the Editor:
In the discussion of a quiet zone in Voorheesville, everyone can agree that safety comes first. A quiet zone, for those who may not know, is an area in which the locomotive engineer will not sound the horn as the train approaches the railroad crossing.
With respect to vehicular traffic, the Federal Railroad Administration has shown that quiet zones are safer than regular crossings because the safety improvements that are required more than compensate for any increased risk that comes with silencing the train horns.
Examples of safety improvements include median barriers and four-quadrant gates, both of which prevent motorists from pulling out of line once the gate is lowered. Gates, flashing lights, and bells remain in a quiet zone. Signs are also placed at the crossing to indicate the train will not blow its horn. Importantly, federal regulations clearly state that a locomotive engineer may blow his horn in a quiet zone any time an emergency arises.
Some have expressed concern that the risk of pedestrian fatalities may increase if we create a quiet zone in Voorheesville. As in the case of vehicles, the engineer in a quiet zone can blow his horn at any time people are on the tracks.
There are over 500 quiet zones in the United States that have been created under the new regulations. The Federal Railroad Administration has not produced any evidence that there has been an increase in pedestrian fatalities in quiet zones.
Tragic fatalities of pedestrians on the tracks, whether a result of suicide, intoxication, listening to loud music with earphones while walking on the tracks, or playing “chicken” with the train, occur in spite of the train horns. What we need is more public education and more rigorous enforcement of trespassing laws.
Several months ago, the Committee for a Quite Zone in Voorheesville (www.voorheesvilleqz.com) received a communication from CSX in which it offered to conduct a program of public education on rail safety in Voorheesville, information which was shared with the village board.
Let’s make this happen. The committee will be happy to work with the board and the school district to implement such a program.