A crash at a railroad crossing in Post Falls recently left one teen dead and another injured. This heartbreaking accident at a grade crossing with no gates or warning signals should serve as a reminder to all drivers that safety is ultimately in their own hands and that they should approach all potentially dangerous situations with caution.
The crash happened around 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 7 as the teens, both musicians, were making their way to a jazz festival. The seventeen-year-old driver had stopped briefly where railroad tracks cross North Spokane Street, but then continued on. He apparently either did not see the oncoming train or miscalculated the distance and it struck his car.
The driver was injured and was reported to be in fair condition at an area hospital. The fifteen-year-old passenger, who was on the side of the vehicle that took the direct impact from the train, did not survive.
That crossing, like thousands across the country, does not have warning signals or gates to prevent vehicles from moving across when a train is approaching. A few years ago it was estimated that there are more than 130,000 grade crossings like this one in the United States, and that fewer than half of them have any kind of barrier or warning that signals an approaching train.
This particular crossing is said by neighbors to be especially dangerous both because trains can’t be seen from the stopping location and because the road there sometimes ices up, making it difficult to stop before reaching the tracks. There have been at least six crashes at that location since 1986, and the Idaho Department of Transportation says that lights and guards are planned for installation this coming summer. That’s sadly too late for the victims of this crash.
This crash falls into a category where multiple dangerous risk factors overlap. Despite great improvements in recent years, railroad crossings are still dangerous locations, accounting for more than 2,000 serious collisions each year, with more than 200 fatalities and close to 1,000 serious injuries.
The driver of the vehicle in this crash was only seventeen, and whether we like it or not, the statistics year in and year out show that this means he was at greater risk of being in an accident. In fact, per mile driven a driver in the sixteen to nineteen age group is nearly three times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident as a driver aged twenty years or older.
Other common risk factors don’t appear to have played a part: Road conditions were said to be safe, and there’s no indication that distracted driving, such as cell phone use, was involved.
We can’t know exactly what happened in this case, and even when the investigation has been completed, there might still be questions that can never be answered. Our sympathies go out to the families and friends of the victims, as well as to the train crew who would have had no way to stop in this situation and could have only stood by as the crash happened.
Every motor vehicle crash is unique, but too many cause loss or permanent hardship for those involved. At Craig Swapp & Associates, we understand the complexity of automobile accident law and are ready to take on any case where the victims need justice. If you or a loved one have been harmed in a car crash, call us at 1-800-404-9000 to schedule a free consultation. You can also contact us online through the form below or launch the LiveChat feature from any page of this website.