AUBURN — A man talking on a cell phone while walking Wednesday on railroad tracks was hit by a train and killed. He was the second person in the area to be killed by a train while talking on a cell phone in the past two weeks.
Auburn Police spokesman Scott Near said the man killed just after noon was walking on the tracks between the 1200 and 1400 blocks of C Street Northwest, where the rails parallel the street and there are no signs or crossings.
Security personnel at Emerald Downs racetrack said the man was a 49-year-old groom at the track, and co-workers there said he had been hired about two months ago after working with horses in Texas.
Witnesses, including the train conductor, saw the man talking on the phone. The engineer sounded the horn, but the man apparently didn’t hear it. The train was going about 80 mph and couldn’t stop in time to avoid hitting the man. The Amtrak Cascades train was heading north from Eugene, Ore., to Seattle.
The accident is under investigation, but Near said the death appears to be accidental and not a suicide.
Just a hint, but if you’re going to be walking on railroad tracks, it might be a good idea to be paying attention. On some lines, the trains are fast enough that by they can be easily heard there isn’t a lot of time to step off the tracks, something that’s especially true if there are a lot of curves that can muffle sound and make it impossible for the conductor to see you until it’s too late to stop. Strangely, this seems to be fairly common:
Train safety advocates say the distraction of texting or talking on cell phones along railroad tracks is becoming an increasing problem…
Marmie Edwards, a spokeswoman for Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety education organization, said the distraction of using cell phones near train tracks is a growing concern. The group has just finished a new safety film for middle school students that warns about the danger of talking or texting on cell phones near tracks.
“We are seeing more of it,” she said. “People are engrossed in what they are doing, maybe looking down to text and not seeing the train, not looking up. Or maybe they don’t hear the horn.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see how someone can be so engrossed in a phone conversation or text messaging that he can’t hear an oncoming train. If it’s that damned distracting then it might just be a good idea not to be walking on railroad tracks when doing it. This isn’t rocket science.