Sunday, November 14, 2004


Explaining Tort "Reform" to Rural America

Under tort "reform" it would undoubtedly become more difficult to sue railroads for crossing accidents such as those described in this new York Times Article.
Operation Lifesaver is the nation's most influential rail-safety group, preaching its gospel of driver responsibility to judges, police officers, elected officials and the news media. No one disputes the value of its message - that motorists should pay attention at rail crossings - or the dedication of many of its volunteers. And its work is widely praised by police and community groups.

But documents show that the organization is tightly bound to the railroad industry, and critics, including many accident victims, say the group's message serves another agenda: to inoculate the railroads against liability in grade-crossing collisions.
And even as Operation Lifesaver speaks out about changing drivers' behavior, it spends little time on a range of safety matters that are the responsibility of the railroads and is largely silent on the benefits of warning lights and gates, which many experts say are among the most effective of all safety devices.
...Ms. Hall said. "(Operation Rescue) is a good organization with big hearts." She said plaintiffs' lawyers were behind the criticism of her group because, with the number of rail-crossing deaths declining, "they are losing their base of operation." Operation Lifesaver, she added, wants to look at all factors involved in accidents, including dangerous crossings.

But Ms. Moore, the mother whose son was killed by a train, remains unconvinced. She asked to join Operation Lifesaver's board last year, but the board unanimously rejected her, saying the group did not wish to become involved in "advocacy." Why, she asked in a letter to Operation Lifesaver, is she called an advocate, when railroad officials on the board are not?

Ms. Moore says she never received an answer.

Maybe someone should get out in front of this issue, like say Democrats in "red" states.


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