[Tweeters] trespassing on railroad tracks
garybletsch at protonmail.com
Mon Jan 10 15:46:59 PST 2022
Thanks to Mark Tomboulian for broaching this topic. Just the other day, I too noticed a party of birders (or perhaps photographers) standing on the railroad tracks near the Swinomish Casino. One of them was actually sitting on the rails. Their view of the Emperor Goose was at best marginally better than the one I enjoyed by standing on a gravel walking path. I reckon I was 300 meters from the bird, and the trespassers had closed the range to perhaps 285 meters.
Common sense would tell us all that any reasonably fit person could easily, almost effortlessly get out of the way of an oncoming train.
Common sense does not reign supreme in human affairs. Over 400 people die in the U.S. every year after being hit by a train, according to the FRA. From reading newspaper accounts of such deaths from time to time, I have come to suspect that a lot of the incidents involve intoxicated people and the mentally ill. Others involve clueless teens walking the tracks while listening to music on headphones. Then there is the mistake of thinking that there is one set of tracks, when there are really multiple rail lines running parallel; the victim hears the horn blast, jumps off one set of tracks, and gets hit on the other side.
US News and World Reportstates that a 40-year-old Tacoma man died on New Year's Day after being hit by a train while trespassing.
A railroad employee presumably does not wish to expend energy trying to ascertain whether a given trespasser has the wits to get out of the way. I can't say I'd blame him-once he's responded to one such incident, he'd rather not do it again. Clueless teen, drunken vagabond, die-hard birder--they all look the same to Burlington Northern.
As I understand it, trespassing is a misdemeanor, so a conviction could involve jail time and a hefty fine.
I doubt that any birders or photographers are going to be hit by a train. I also doubt that anyone in the Padilla Bay area will end up being cited for trespassing. However, the railroad might decide to "do something." Right now, it is easy to view the Emperor Goose and all the other birds out there at the southwest corner of Padilla Bay. I'd hate to get out there and find all the roadside pullouts blocked off and a barrier erected along the tracks!
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