The woman whose Jeep SUV was struck by a Norfolk Southern train last week maintains that she was not at fault for the collision.
The railroad tracks on Lee Highway have been the cause of anxiety for drivers, three of whom were involved in collisions with trains in the past year.
The police report that on Wed. Dec. 19 at 6:47 p.m. a woman driving an SUV, stopped on the tracks and collided with a Norfolk Southern train, which shut down traffic for 2.5 hours.
“The accused disregarded the signs and roadway markings and stopped on the tracks,” police spokesman Officer Dennis J. Jensen said. “The train was unable to stop and struck the rear of the car.”
However, the woman driving the Jeep SUV that was struck by the train commented on Bristow Beat, presenting a different account of the collision.
“I stopped in front of the tracks. I was waiting until I had enough room in front of me to clear the tracks before I crossed over. There were two cars behind me. The train sideswiped the front left side of the Jeep, not the rear,” said the driver, who did not want to be identified. “I was blindsided and never heard it coming with no warning at all from behind me to the left: no lights, horn, flashing lights, etc.”
In her post, the woman described the minor damage to the front of her vehicle and emphasized that there was no damage to the rear of her car as reported.
“The driver’s side door is perfect except my mirror is gone and damage to the front of the Jeep; the railway car appendages: ladders, steps, etc. were tapping the Jeep as it passed,” she said. “The police described the damage to my car as ‘minor.’ The car would have been compacted and demolished, if I had been on the tracks.”
According to Jensen, the driver was cited for the accident and released on a summons.
“I signed a summons and it says on it, it is not an admission of guilt. I told the officer at the time, I was not on the tracks. If I had been, I would be dead,” she said. “Look at the pictures. The train is on the tracks. I am not.”
Furthermore, the driver said that there were a number of factors that contributed to the accident, including an unclear stopping zone, insufficient warning signs at the crossing, the distance between the crossing and the tracks and perhaps even a faulty signal.
“The only signs are, ‘Do not stop on the tracks’, which I did not and ‘Stop Here’ with an arrow pointing down at a line next to the lowering gate, when the lights are flashing; they weren’t flashing when I passed the sign in traffic with cars in front and behind me,” she said.
She cautioned that authorities need to investigate this crossing for improvements to avoid future accidents.
Highway improvements are being made a short distance down the highway at the intersection of Linton Hall Road and U.S. Route 29, which will include an overpass so trains will pass under the roadway. The Virginia Department of Transportation expects the $97 million dollar project to be completed by 2015.
© 2012, Jason Shaw. All rights reserved.