When I was about 10, one afternoon while playing with a few of my friends, I got my shoe got stuck in the train tracks near my house.
A few minutes in, one of my shoe laces came undone, causing me to trip while my thick-soled Reebok sneaker got wedged between the tracks.
I wasn’t able to get up and free my shoe myself so my friends bent down to help me. While one of them was reaching down trying to free my shoe, they were all laughing.
I tired to play it cool, but I was panicking inside. All I could think about was a train coming and me not being able to free myself in time. Instead of waiting to get my shoe free, I was able to squeeze my foot out of my shoe. Then, we yanked my shoe free.
About ten minutes later, a train came blaring along.
I still live near those tracks and often see people walking along them, or posing for family pictures there. It makes me shudder with terror to this day.
As a mom to three teens who go out, bike, or skateboard with their friends alone, I’m always telling them to stay off the damn tracks. They think I’m being overprotective, and they feel invincible, but I often remind them of my own train track story — especially since we live about a half mile from train tracks.
You may think you’ll hear a train coming and be able to move out of the way in time, but this isn’t always the case. Last Saturday night around 6 p.m., a 17-year-old by was killed after getting hit by a train in Troutdale, Oregon. According to county deputies, he was taking senior photos. No one is sure why he wasn’t able to move out of the way in time, but he wasn’t alone. Apparently, there was a photographer with him.
Fox 12 Oregon reports, “Much of the area is fenced-off with no trespassing signs posted up and down the tracks, so it would have taken some effort to get near the tracks.”
Railroad tracks are a popular destinations for photo-ops. Families hold hands with their kids as they walk toward the camera. High school seniors pose for their yearbook photos.
Tracks aren’t a safe place to take pictures. They are not walking trails, and they absolutely aren’t a safe place to play or hang out. Especially with earbuds stuck in your ears. Just four days before the Troutdale death, a man was also killed by a train in Bellevue, Ohio — and according to the Sandusky Register, “The train’s engineers told law enforcement they believed the man was wearing earbuds at the time of the incident. Police did find earbuds at the scene.”
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were over 1,000 rail trespass casualties and injuries in 2018 and, according to Wikipedia, “more than 7,200 pedestrians have been killed by trains in the United States since 1997.”
Many of us probably assume this isn’t a present danger, but it is. Those numbers, and the recent, tragic news stories, do not lie.
Teenagers (and adults) may think they have the know-how to get out of the way if they hear a train coming. They think they will have plenty of time, but this isn’t always the case. And if you live in a town where there are train stations for commuters, you have to pay attention to the signals instead of assuming you can beat the train. I know we are always in a hurry, and always have somewhere to be, but some things are simply not worth it.
We not only need to obey these rules ourselves and lead by example, it’s important we give our kids a refresher course of what could happen so they aren’t tempted to try and outrun the train. With mass transit systems being commonplace in major cities, and more being built each year, it will become a way of life for many young people. They need to know how important it is to be alert (put the phone down) and aware of their surroundings.
Stay off the tracks. Take your pictures elsewhere.
There’s absolutely zero reason to put yourself, or your family, in this type of danger.
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