‘Beating the train’ – a game of deadly consequences

Unprotected rail crossings in Mexico represent a significant danger for motorists – especially those who like to drive on the edge.

pg5A tragic accident last week in the Jalisco town of Lagos de Moreno claimed the lives of five people, when the driver of a pick-up truck attempted to cross the tracks as a freight train approached.

The victims — four women and a child — were all sitting in the open rear of the pick-up impacted by the oncoming train.  Five others, including the driver, survived with various injuries.

Remarkably, three other incidents involving vehicles and trains have been reported in Jalisco in the past week.  In all the cases authorities put the blame on the negligent behavior of the drivers of the vehicles. For some behind the wheel, “ganar el tren” (beat the train) is a perverse game that toys with devastating consequences.

Accidents involving trains and vehicles occur regularly on Mexican highways, as well as in urban areas such as Guadalajara, where there are at least 50 crossings – almost half (22) in the municipality of Tlajomulco.

Efforts made in the past to provide barriers and (working) lights at these crossings are mostly failed.  And although train drivers are told to slow down as they approach the crossings, accidents often occur.

In Jalisco last year, between January and September, 13 accidents involving train and automobiles were reported, according to the Agencia Reguladora del Transporte Ferroviario.  The highest number of incidents in Mexico, the agency says, was in the state of Nuevo Leon, with 32.

Following last week’s fatal accident in Lagos de Moreno, the state Transportation Department (Semov) and the federal Communications and Transportation Ministry (SCT) agreed to revise all the rail crossing points in Jalisco.

“Even though these incidents are the fault of negligent drivers, we also have to establish preventative measures at these crossings,”said Semov Director Servando Sepúlveda.