car turning illegally in front of a train
You Can't Beat a Train - VTA Kicks Off Safety Awareness Campaign
Stacey Hendler Ross

In recognition of Rail Safety Month, in September, VTA is asking you to share an important message to help save lives. The message is “You can’t beat a train.”

It sounds simple. It sounds like common sense. However, our light rail operators are noticing an alarming increase in students and other pedestrians or bicyclists deliberately ignoring safety precautions in place at light rail crossings. Also, people are increasingly looking at their smartphones, wearing ears buds or headsets, and simply not paying attention as they approach VTA light rail tracks.

Add distracted driving to this already fast-paced environment and you have a recipe for disaster. The most common car versus light rail incidents occur when drivers make an illegal left-hand turn in front of the train when it has the green light. Please put down your phones when driving, and always keep an eye out for pedestrians and bicyclists around our transit system.

Preventing Tragedy

Two tragic incidents occurred this summer involving bicyclists hit by VTA light rail trains. One of those incidents occurred at the light rail crossing near Del Mar High School, involving a summer school student. The other happened at the Diridon Light Rail Station. In both cases, warning lights and bells were working and crossing gates were activated to keep people from crossing the tracks as trains approached. In both cases, those protections were ignored and serious injuries occurred.

It bears repeating messages we’ve put out often in the past: VTA bus and rail operators go through extensive safety training to operate their vehicles, but these vehicles weigh 50 tons, and they cannot stop on a dime. Pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers must be aware they share the roads with these massive trains, as light rail tracks are on the same grade level as streets.

When crossing light rail tracks, never, ever ignore safety precautions in place. Always look BOTH ways, even after one train has passed. There is typically another train coming from the other direction, sometimes within seconds of the first.

Spread the Word!

Throughout the month of September, and periodically throughout the rest of the year, VTA will be conducting a public campaign to emphasize safety around our system. We’ll have multiple social media posts and safety information to distribute and we ask that you partner with us to share this information with your loved ones and friends.

You, the public, our riders and community leaders can help with safety awareness by word of mouth, social media or email. Check out our safety video and please share that too!

Remember, you can’t beat a train, so don’t try. Stay safe around VTA.

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