Join the Car Talk Community!

Can you hear the train?

RSS
distracted driving
This is a true story that illustrates just how "tuned out" someone can become when they are talking on a cell phone. I've changed the names of those involved.

John was excited to take a group of co-workers on a weekend fishing trip. He picked up his friends on Friday after work and they drove several hours to a motel near the river.

The group checked into their motel late that evening, but John had difficulty sleeping with the anticipation of the next day. Well before dawn, John and his fishing party got up, loaded the van, and drove to the parking lot near the river. The plan was to meet Mike, a local fishing guide, who would take them out on the river to the best location for fishing.

John wanted to scout the river for himself, so he walked onto the train tracks that overlooked the river. From there, John had an excellent vantage of the river and his surroundings. He was excited to start fishing. He could see the fishing boats on the river. He decided to call Mike to get the latest update on the conditions and when they would be picked up. He dialed his phone and started the brief conversation.

At the same time, a freight train was making the daily run on the line following the river. When the train was about a half mile away, the conductor noticed John standing on the train tracks. The conductor yelled to the engineer that someone was standing on the tracks and they activated the train's horn and the emergency brakes.

But, it takes time for the emergency brakes to bring a train to a complete stop.

Everyone interviewed reported that they heard the train's horn - except for John who continued to stand on the tracks looking at the river and talking on his cell phone to Mike. The engineer and the conductor looked on in horror as John stood motionless as the train approached.

From his boat, Mike heard the train's horn and then the phone call with John ended. Mike didn't immediately realize what had happened - he didn't know until much later that John was standing on the train tracks and was the reason that the train's horn was activated.

John was struck by the train and killed instantly.

When the accident investigation team arrived on the site, no one could explain how John failed to hear the approaching train and get off the train tracks. All John needed to do was move a few feet to the side of the tracks and he would have been unharmed.

The only explanation that the accident investigators could come up with was that John was so focused on his cell phone conversation with Mike that he tuned out everything else - including the approaching train.
Tags (Browse All)
distracted driving

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login / Signup
Support for Car Talk is provided by:

Donate Your Car,
Support Your NPR Station

...and get a tax break!

Get Started

Find a Mechanic


Go



Submit


Rocket Fuel