Trains have been traveling through our cities and towns for hundreds of years now, but the dangers of living with this transportation technology have recently been highlighted by tragedies that have resulted in loss of life. When a moving train and a person collide, it’s no contest ”“ the person always loses ”“ and when the train comes off the tracks, as it did in Lac Megantic, Quebec last year, there’s little hope for those in its path. But while federal officials are hoping to address the issues that lead to derailments, local officials are focusing on a simpler problem: keeping people off the tracks.

There’s no mystery as to where the train will go; as the old joke goes, “How do you know a train came through here? It left its tracks.” Crossing those tracks at the wrong time is certainly no joke, however, and is usually fatal. A Biddeford man wearing earbud headphones was killed by the Amtrak Downeaster in 2012. And just this past weekend, a South Portland woman was also fatally struck by the passenger train. In 2008, two Lebanon girls were seriously injured after falling asleep while sunbathing on freight train tracks and waking up too late.

Some of the incidences in York County have been deemed suicides, but many are due to negligence on the part of the trespasser.

Walking along the train tracks or strolling across trestles seems to be an accepted pastime in our culture, and it’s time to change that concept. Train tracks and trestles are private property, belonging to the operator of the trains. Although it would not be feasible to fence off the miles of track, the easy access isn’t an invitation to trespass.

Most trains take at least a mile to come to a stop, even if the conductor notices an obstruction in time, so it’s important to stay off the tracks and be alert when crossing them is a necessity. Although fatal collisions with trains have been occurring since the engines began running, people today are even more distracted, with their digital devices and music players that impede their ability to hear.

Those who are under the influence of alcohol are particularly prone to bad judgment when it comes to train tracks. In fact, according to figures provided by Operation Lifesaver, more than half of pedestrians killed by trains are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Operation Lifesaver, an all-volunteer association that works to remind the public of the dangers of trespassing on railroad tracks, recently provided 5,000 drink coasters to Old Orchard Beach bars to remind people of the danger that might be coming down the tracks. The coasters show a man with a beer on one side and a train on the other, with the tagline, “The Most Lopsided Crash in History.”

We’d like to applaud their outreach work and the cooperation of the Bar and Restaurant Association of Old Orchard Beach, which will distribute the coasters. Hopefully, it will be a reminder to those who are imbibing to stay away from the tracks so they can stay safe and have a good time.


Today’s editorial was written by Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Kristen by calling 282-1535, ext. 322, or via email at [email protected]