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October 2, 2003

Metro pushing for rail safety awareness
When light rail is involved in traffic fatalities increase 10 fold

11:07 AM CDT on Monday, October 6, 2003
By Jeremy Desel / 11 News

HOUSTON -- Houston's new light rail is starting to hit the tracks with testing underway. But how does the area's newest mode of transportation rate on the danger scale? Federal records show some disturbing statistics.

Accidents between light rail trains and cars or buses happen in the cities that have light rail.

That's why Metro says that illegal moves such as jaywalking across the tracks are trouble.

Sidney Harris ran across Houston's light rail tracks. She thought about the potential danger, but jaywalked anyway. "But I had to come across the tracks," she said. "What other choice do you have?"

Angela Anderson didn't think twice about walking across the tracks. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe because I know it's not working right now."

But it is. Live track testing is on at all hours of the day and night.

You don't have to tell 15-year-old Santi Davies of Portland, Oregon, how dangerous the super quiet trains can be. "I think I was unconscious when I was hit by the train and pulled under the train," she said. "But when I woke up I was under the train and people pulled me out."

But not before she was dragged 80 feet. She lived, but many others have not been so lucky.

The Department of Transportation says last year there were 4.4 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle-miles traveled involving buses. For heavy rail there were 3.2 fatalities. But light rail had 42.3 fatalities, more than 10 times either of the other transit options.

Metro knows that safety is important when it comes to adding a new element to the traffic mix. That's why it is trying to reach out to the community with ads and brochures. But so far not many folks have seen anything. "No. I haven't seen that," said University of Rice student Osman Nal. "I don't think that there is any kind of danger related to it at all, as long as you have the precautions"