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There was a senseless car v. train crash in Lakeland, Florida on Monday July 17, 2007, the took the lives of four people. It was described by one investigating officer as a “useless, senseless tragedy.” An eyewitness observed the lights flashing and the bells ringing at the rail crossing as the safety gates lowered. The witness watched as a red sedan carrying four occupants risked making it through the rail crossing as the fast moving eastbound Amtrak train bore down the tracks. The impact was so great that the car was thrown 300 yards leaving a trail of debris before coming to a final rest (including the engine which came loose). The sedan was left unrecognizable.

The crash took place near the site of a June 13 crash that killed an 18-year-old woman who drove around the safety gates and was struck by a westbound Amtrak train. Both crashes occurred at different crossings along the same set of tracks west of downtown Lakeland. The article cites a 2004 Northwestern University study of a national rail safety program which noted that 80% of auto accident deaths at crossings with safety gates or other “active” warning devices happen because the driver ignores the device. Drivers misjudge the speed of the approaching trains and because they are in hurry are tempted to drive around the lowered gates and/or flashing lights.

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