Three Ways to Prevent Brightline Accidents in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach

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After three Brightline trains crashed into vehicles over a four-day period last week – one was fatal and another sent the driver to hospital with ‘serious injuries’ – the company puts the emphasizes safety and reminds drivers and pedestrians to stay out of the lanes.

The so-called high-speed rail line – which runs from Miami to West Palm Beach at up to 79 miles per hour – has been rated by the Associated Press as the deadliest train per mile. At least 55 people have been killed since Brightline began three years ago, and there have been 11 accidents since the train began operations last November after a 20-month hiatus during the pandemic.

Mike Arias, a retired traffic officer for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue with 40 years of experience and a public road safety advocate, recounts new times he recently wrote a letter to Brightline officials, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, and other South Florida city leaders, offering simple solutions to make Brightline level crossings safer. He has not yet received a response.

In light of the recent spate of accidents and the fact that the rail line is expanding into Orlando, we asked Arias to share the three suggestions he thinks will prevent Brightline accidents and save lives.

Reduce speed at busy checkpoints

Arias predicts that the biggest game changer when it comes to saving lives is actually the cheapest and easiest to implement. If Brightline trains were to slow to around 10 miles per hour at least half a mile from busy crossings, train operators would have plenty of time to brake if they saw a vehicle or pedestrian on the tracks.

“Reduce the travel speed of the train from around 40 to 60 miles per hour that they are currently traveling through intersections to 10 miles per hour in case they encounter a stationary vehicle on the track,” Arias said. .

The downside, for a company that advertises itself as the “fastest way to travel”, would be to lengthen the overall travel time.

Reinforce and extend crossing barriers

Crossing barriers are activated as a train approaches, gently lowering to form a barrier between road traffic and railway tracks as trains pass. But the doors are thin and easy to maneuver, especially for smaller vehicles.

To prevent drivers from trying to “beat the train” and getting hit, Arias proposes to install new longer and more robust barriers, which make it more difficult for drivers to pass.

“You have to harden the infrastructure so that it’s fail-safe,” he says. “The majority of the deaths that have occurred, in my view, could have been avoided.”

Cameras that transmit video of railroad crossings to Brightline Crew

If cameras are installed at each of the region’s 178 crossings, Brightline drivers and crew would have enough time to respond to vehicles or pedestrians on the tracks and potentially prevent an accident.

Arias admits it would be a costly undertaking, given that monitors would have to be installed on every train and cameras at each of the region’s 178 crossings.

“Since we have the technology readily available, mount the camera and have a live feed straight to the operator,” says Arias. “And as the train approaches, the operator will have a better view of whether there is something ahead of us or not.”

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