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TRANSIT OFFICIALS, TRAIN LINES LAUNCH DRIVE ON CROSSING SAFETY.

Byline: David Bloom Daily News Staff Writer

A statewide campaign to warn pedestrians and drivers of the dangers of trains kicked off Monday with a presentation at Union Station of TV public service announcements.

``They are graphic and compelling re-enactments of incidents that have occurred here in Southern California,'' said Peter Hidalgo, a spokesman for Metrolink, which joined with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Amtrak, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern/Santa Fe to push the education campaign.

Since 1992, 35 Southern Californians have died in accidents with Metrolink trains, either as pedestrians or drivers who were improperly on the tracks, Hidalgo said.

``It just illustrates there's a casual attitude that it's OK to be on the tracks, that trains will always stop for me,'' Hidalgo said. ``We have a real problem with pedestrians on the tracks.''

But with Metrolink trains traveling as fast as 79 mph and a typical locomotive pulling a five-car string weighing a total of 450 tons, the laws of physics make it difficult to stop fast enough to prevent fatal accidents.

The most recent death was Thursday, when an Upland youth was killed while playing on the tracks there.

California leads the nation in pedestrian train accidents and is fifth in car-train accidents, with 661 deaths since 1992.

``We're still a little boggled that people think it's OK to walk the tracks or try to beat the train (in their car),'' Hidalgo said.

The new television spots are part of a weeklong education effort.

On Thursday, officials will discuss the problem with judges and prosecutors in Glendale and Burbank, in the hope that they will seek stiffer penalties against drivers trying to beat crossing signals.

The spots re-enact three incidents. One involves a woman whose car stalled on Metrolink tracks in front of a train, killing the woman and her baby.

A second shows a Riverside incident where four teens - one of them pregnant - died in 1994 when they didn't beat a train to a crossing. The third shows an Orange County youth playing on a bridge whose foot got caught in the tracks as he tried to escape.

The series was primarily funded by the Association of American Railroads, Hidalgo said, and will be shown around the country. A nonprofit organization called California Operation Lifesaver will oversee the distribution of the spots in Southern California, along with equivalent public service announcements for radio and print outlets.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Chart

PHOTO A Metrolink train passes at De Soto Avenue. A state campaign on track safety began Monday.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News

CHART: METROLINK FATALITIES
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 22, 1997
Words:429
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