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Caltrain's 'Near Miss' Isn't Deterring Anybody

Last week, SFGate's blog reposted a video from Caltrain of a 'near miss' in which a pedestrian narrowly escapes being hit by a Bullet train. The blog post says that Caltrain is making a 'safety push' by promoting this video, ostensibly as a deterrent, in hopes that people who see it will be less likely to cross the train tracks. The video, taken on Feb. 18, originally appeared in this blog post from Caltrain. It is accompanied by safety tips such as "Never go around the gates!" and "Look, listen, live!"

The release of this video comes on the heels of yet another Caltrain death in Atherton last weekend, when a man was hit by a southbound train early Saturday morning around 1:30 a.m. Authorities have not yet released the victim's name, and there is no word on why the victim was on the train tracks. This was the third Caltrain fatality so far this year, which puts the company on pace to keep up with its average of 13 fatalities per year.

Does Caltrain honestly believe that releasing this video qualifies as a 'safety push'? I think if you asked 10 random people the best way to avoid getting hit by a train, they would all say that you have to stay away from the tracks. It is much the same as asking people the best way to avoid getting hit by a car. Don't cross the street. It's not exactly a revelation. And yet, there are still people who wind up on the tracks for one reason or another, like Jenna Betti, the 14-year-old who went back to retrieve her cell phone on a train track in Martinez and tragically misjudged a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train's path. People who get stuck on train tracks know better in a rational sense, but sometimes, when faced with a split-second decision, they make the wrong choice.

If Caltrain wanted to make a real 'safety push,' they would start thinking longer and harder about actual safety measures they could install to cut down on the frequency of train accidents. Sure, they can propagate obvious safety tips to the masses, and it could make someone like Betti think twice before risking her life for her cell phone. But the PR element would be only one minor component of a truly comprehensive safety plan. Caltrain needs to take a page out of the New York Subway System's book and start investigating new possibilities for making its system safer. One death a month is one a month too many.

What are your feelings on Caltrain's 'near miss' video? Will this really serve as a deterrent and prevent people from crossing train tracks? Leave your opinion in the comments section.

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