Three Burlington railway crossing deaths in three months – 7 in the whole province. Intolerable.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 29, 2013.  It takes persistence and facts to bring about change and a city council as small as the one we have in Burlington is not always the easiest to move.

Denise Davy appeared before a council committee earlier in the month and brought to the attention of the city the number of tragic deaths along the railway lines that run through the city.

Davy, an experienced journalist was able to engage members of council and felt the city might be able to do something to prevent these needless deaths – she is back before city council this evening, Monday night,  to see if they will put something concrete in place.

While doing some additional research Davy came up with some startling data. 

There is no barrier at this location that is so well used it has a pathway for people to follow. The signage is pitiful.

Some of the deaths along the railway line are suicides – the police are sometimes not sure which are accidents and which are people deliberately trying to end their lives. 

Some people do choose to end their lives by walking in front of a train; others are looking for a short cut and they scoot across the tracks.

The commonly held view is that if a person decides they intend to commit suicide and they are prevented doing so at one location they will just find another.  That apparently is just not true.

This message is a testament to a death that did not have to take place.

Some research done on what is described as “thwarted jumpers” – people who were attempting suicide but were caught before the actually jumped.  Out of 100 people who had tried to jump less than 6% of these people tried to jump somewhere else and end their lives.  If the data is valid, and Davy isn’t a fool – she digs and does her homework – then there are very solid reasons to put up some kind of barrier along those stretches of the rail line where people can cross easily.

People feel they are safe if they look both ways, see no train coming and cross the tracks.  Councillor Dennison told council he does it all the time.  Great example there Jack – people have the view that it is safe.  The numbers tell a different story.

Davy feels the city might put up short stretches of barrier that dissuade people.  She doesn’t want a Berlin Wall or something like that atrocity the Israeli’s have strung across parts of Israel and Palestine – but a wall that is reasonably attractive, that cannot be damaged and cannot be scaled.

The cost is manageable and the benefit is significant.

For the period of January to March of this year there were 7 of what police call railway trespassing deaths.  Three of those deaths were in Burlington.

We have a problem.

We can go after the railway – in this case that would be GO transit which now owns the tracks, we can chase the federal agency that is responsible for transportation safety and we might actually achieve something – but that will take a long time – governments just work that way.

Would a sign with a HELP number make any difference to someone wanting to commit suicide?

Davy wants to put up the barriers now – even if there are just a few.  She thinks too that it might be possible to get the Kids Help Line to put up some of their signs at the crossings.

We shall see how Council chooses to handle this problem – three deaths in three months is not part of being a great city.

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1 comment to Three Burlington railway crossing deaths in three months – 7 in the whole province. Intolerable.

  • Helene

    We don’t need walls! – we need more health care dollars for high alert / continued public awareness for mental health issues caused by a multitude of reasons anywhere from chemical imbalances, hormonal imbalances (including menopause), adrenal fatigue, improper diet, drug interaction, medication side effects, gluten intolerance, genetic predisposition and the list goes on and on. We need to listen – not walls!