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Times' computer-assisted report traces danger across L.A.'s Metrolink system

The regional rail system known as Metrolink developed its reputation as the nation’s most deadly commuter line based largely on four dramatic accidents, the most recent being last year’s head-on crash with a freight train in Chatsworth.

That collision, the worst rail disaster in modern California history, killed 25.

But accidents with passenger injuries and deaths are only part of Metrolink’s troubled safety history.

This weekend, The Times will publish an exclusive database map of all reported accidents and incidents on the Metrolink rail system over its 15 years of operation leading up to the Chatsworth crash.

The research, led by Times Database Editor Doug Smith, shows that the majority of people killed by trains have not been passengers, but drivers and pedestrians who were on the tracks.

Not counting the Chatsworth crash, at least 212 people have been killed by Metrolink or other trains. And many of the most dangerous spots are where tracks cross city streets in the San Fernando Valley.

Metrolink has failed to do much about these "grade-crossing” incidents — unlike its sister agency, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which erected safety guards that significantly reduced pedestrian deaths along its Blue Line light rail system from Los Angeles to Long Beach.

Included in The Times’ package of news reports, videos and interactive graphics will be Sherry Griswold’s recollection of the day in March 1997 when her son, David Michael, was killed by a Southern Pacific freight train near San Fernando Road.

In the video above by Smith and Times reporter Rich Connell, she calls for new safety improvements to reduce the odds people will wander into harm’s way.

-- William Nottingham

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

RE: The grade crossing collisions and pedestrian fatalities, to quote Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

I think you mean trespassers...meaning people that drive around gates and walk on the tracks...which have been there since 1876.

It's not Metrolink or other trains that these (212) peoples have died. People need to know where they are at all time when they are near railroad tracks. Remeber that trains can't stop on a dime.

These railroad tracks were here before anyone and anything was built around them. As city and town grow, people act like these tracks were put in like yesterday. People need to take responabity for there own action and not to blame it on someone else....

Grow up..

I'm sorry for the loss of your son. But why are people so close to the tracks anyway. And, the sound of a train coming is VERY LOUD pedestrians obviously hear and see the train coming. Again why is one so close.

People can be impulsive which would sometimes equal to being stupid with their decisions. Grade crossing collisions and pedestrian fatalities is much like the really bad habit of speeding to beat the red light which often of course, just leads to tragic consequences for the everyone else involved.

More safety guards should be erected, the authorities can't just assume some of these people know any better because often times, they don't or they think they can get away crossing the tracks even with a train crossing. People should be protected from themselves.

Yes yes, we must protect the stupid from themselves.

These previous posting show both the ignorance of the authors and the effectiveness of railroad companies "Operation Lifesaver" that helps to perpetuate the idea that all people hurt in railroad crossing accidents are making a conscience effort to attempt to "beat-the-train" and not that some crossings have hard to see warning systems such as faint lights, blocked signs or other traffic situations that can allow a driver to never know that they are about to cross railroad tracks after making a turn.

It can be said that "Operation Lifesaver" is a high tech form of jury tampering to limit or prevent railroad companies from admitting responsibility for poorly designed crossings, and then to take the necessary steps t0 eliminate the dangers. Big trucks at some busy crossings may block a solitary warning sign and then cars in heavy traffic may not see tracks and stop on them in stop and go traffice.. When a train is arriving, there is not time to get out of the way.

Blaming drivers is far too easy, fixing hidden dangers only takes some common sense.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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