Story by Kent Ava
SALT LAKE CITY—The rash of recent accidents that involve taking UTA TRAX has raised some serious questions on safety and whether or not it’s a lifesaver or a life taker. According to Utah Transit Authority’s mission statement, its purpose is to “enable individuals to pursue a fuller life with greater ease and convenience.” These accidents according to experts are due to the lack of patience and carelessness of others.
Deseret News reports according to UTA, there have been 11 accidents involving TRAX, including five fatalities — the most since light rail began in Utah — and six that resulted in injuries in 2011 so far.
A recent Deseret News article compared accident rates among similar-sized light-rail systems across the U.S. and found that Utah ranks high in the number of accidents.
Sheena McFarland, justice writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, who has covered numerous reports in regards to the string of accidents, said safety simply comes down to patience and awareness in and around the TRAX.
McFarland said, about the recent accidents,” I’m trying to figure out why people are suddenly making really poor choices around the TRAX. Are they overly comfortable and confident because the trains have been around for so long?”
McFarland suggests typical safety rules like: staying behind yellow lines on platforms, not crossing in front of trains or going underneath cross-arms.
“Getting too comfortable with them [TRAX] is a terrible idea, as is thinking you can beat a racing, oncoming train. Have they become too accustomed to the general warnings about trains?” said McFarland.
In effort to promote and maintain safety in and around the TRAX, UTA has launched a new safety campaign “Operation Lifesaver: Train for Safety.” The advertising campaign was aimed to increase awareness around train platforms and crossings.
“We have the best safety devices [available] in the system right now and we are asking people to obey those devices and systems to keep them safe,” said UTA General Manager Michael Allegra.
Allegra says, recent incidents involving vehicles at crossings and pedestrians near TRAX platforms prompted the new campaign. Similar to the way distracted driving has become an issue with drivers on roadways, people becoming distracted around trains has also developed into a serious concern.
Derrick Klarr, TRAX operator said, accidents affect not only the families of the victims, but the operators also when such tragedy happens and can be prevented by paying attention to safety devices like cross-arms and signs.
“I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t been involved in a fatality, but we’ve had our share of operators that have and some take weeks of counseling before they get back in the seat, and some never return,” said Klarr.
Klarr explains, “we [train] are on fixed rails and have all required safety devices in place, and then some. However, people seem to ignore or just don’t care about these devices and choose to go around them putting themselves at harm.”
Despite such accidents UTA TRAX continues to promote and encourage safety with future expansions into Draper City and the Salt Lake City Airport. This is part of the “Front Lines 2015” project.