Goodbye, SUV: Metra video of staged crash shows why trains always win

  • Metra staged a collision with a train headed for rehab and an ancient SUV to warn drivers about the dangers of ignoring signals at crossings.

    Metra staged a collision with a train headed for rehab and an ancient SUV to warn drivers about the dangers of ignoring signals at crossings. Courtesy of Metra/Mark Llanuza

 
 
Updated 10/1/2018 6:03 PM

It was a setup and no one was harmed -- but the video of a Metra locomotive pounding into an SUV and tossing it like a toy still evokes a wince.

Officials with the commuter railroad staged a crash Sunday in the South suburbs that will be used in public service announcements and safety campaigns to warn drivers about paying attention at grade crossings.

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Vehicle crashes at crossings increased in 2017 with more than 2,100 collisions (and more than 270 fatalities) reported, Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said.

"This year alone, Metra trains have struck 13 vehicles. We haven't even gotten into the 10th month," Derwinski said. When a train crash occurs at rush hour, it can affect up to 20,000 commuters, he noted.

For the video, the agency used an out-of-service locomotive that is scheduled to be rebuilt and an older SUV that was headed for the junk yard.

Metra sees plenty of crashes that aren't simulations. In May 2011, a concrete truck wove around lowered gates in Mount Prospect and was hit by a rush-hour train headed for downtown. The driver was killed and 26 passengers taken to hospital.

Safety experts say similar crashes can occur when drivers misjudge the speed of the train or try to beat it, or if motorists focus on the train they can see and forget to look for others on adjacent tracks.

"Distracted driving probably is one of leading reasons why people are going around gates," Derwinski added. "The gates are down, the lights are flashing, yet we still have grade crossing incidents."

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