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Akron accident victim, experts demand train horns be mandatory at Ohio private crossings

Safety expert calls for change in Ohio law
Posted at 11:16 PM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-04 23:16:32-05

Accident victims, city leaders, and safety experts are calling for a change in Ohio law that would once again require train operators to blow their horns at private railroad crossings in the Buckeye State.

Nationally known train safety expert Bob Comer told News 5 serious accidents continue at private crossings, and he is asking that a state law passed in 2013, no longer requiring train whistles at private crossing be rolled back.

Comer pointed to the the 2013 fatal train, SUV accident that claimed the life of 15-year-old Sierra Thornton.

Thornton was killed after the SUV she was riding in was struck by a train at private railroad crossing in Ravenna.  Witnesses at the scene said they did not hear a train whistle seconds before the accident.

"This is one of Ohio's biggest safety risks, no train whistles required at private crossings." said Comer.

"School buses sometimes go across them, and the problem is if you don’t have any lights, or gates, or bells, and all you’ve got is signs, the driver has to be able to see or hear the train coming."

Comer believes the Ohio law was changed for one reason.

"This is the railroads way of getting politicians to exempt them from financial responsibility," said Comer.

Comer also referenced a Aug. 21, 2017, train, truck accident at a private railroad crossing in Stow, Ohio.

Jarodd Duncan of Akron was seriously injured after his dump truck was hit by a CSX train.

The train operator told Stow police he was blowing the horn, but Duncan told News 5 that wasn't the case. 

"I’m crossing the track and I look to my right again, and there’s a train, and I’m going, what," said Duncan.  

"Where is the horn?  Next thing I know I’m upside down."

"I said I didn't hear a train whistle, but they said they blew the horn, they told their attorneys they blew the horn.  No they didn't."

Duncan told News 5 he was never issued a ticket after the collision.

Comer believes state lawmakers need to take a serious look at requiring train horn at private crossing once again.

CSX issued the following statement in response to our story:

“Safety is CSX’s highest priority. CSX train engineers follow federal law mandating that freight train horns be sounded at public grade crossings to alert the public. 

Train engineers also use their discretion to blow the horn in operational situations when they believe safety will be enhanced by increasing awareness of an approaching train, such as when a person or vehicle is on or near the tracks.”