Editorial: Train of thought should be on track

Last updated 05:00 16/08/2014

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OPINION: In our daily lives we often tell ourselves things like "I'll just nip across . . ." or "I'm just ducking through . . ." or "I've just about got time to zip into . . ."

These are the thought processes of a life lived with momentum; each of them representing the seizing of an opportunity to avoid delay.

If you ask us, drivers in particular don't enjoy the feeling of deceleration, let alone coming to a complete stop.

Maybe we see such moments as little setbacks on our journey; us with places to go and things to do. We do it if we have to. Unhappily, all too often, we are far from adept or diligent at identifying just when we have to, either as a matter of habit or momentary instinct.

Faintly disagreeable though the interruptions of our journey may feel, they are preferable, on balance, to the sensation of impact with a train.

Trains don't zip, duck or nip. They are subject to huge forces of inertia; monstrously unreactive to emergency braking.

In Rail Safety Week we can take some comfort in the fact that after a nasty run of four fatalities 1999-2005, Southland has escaped a fatal crunch since then.

Which, the way so many of us are driving, possibly means we're due. We've been riding our luck to the tune of 29 near collisions reported in the southern region this calendar year and 575 in the four years before that.

One identified problem is especially interesting: motorists looking past the rail tracks and concentrating, instead, on the road intersections that so often are just a bit farther ahead.

Don't do that.

You'd think it was a difficult thing to overlook a train. But drivers don't always associate tracks with trains. Not vividly, anyway. Something of a failure of imagination, that.

And though trains aren't usually regarded as stealthy in their approach, our peripheral vision clearly won't, itself, save us. Sometimes even flashing lights and barrier arms are insufficient.

Let's regard trains as the big ‘ol bullies they are. There's no reasoning with them. Whatever else is going on in our lives and our journeys, train tracks demand our attention every time.

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- The Southland Times

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