- February 8, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Catastrophic Injury
You’re going about your day, trying to get to work, or back home, or wherever your current destination might be. Maybe you’re checking your email, or thinking through your to-do list. Your commute is so routine that it barely demands any attention.
But then, every so often, you glance over the edge of the platform while waiting for your train, and you realize how easy it would be to slip and fall onto the tracks below. You might even have stopped to ask yourself, “Why on earth isn’t there a railing here?”
If you guessed that the answer has to do with money, you’re correct. Altering train stations to include safety barriers would be a significant investment, especially considering all the mismatched architecture, built by different contractors, that each train would have to interact with during the course of its route.
But why were the stations all built with such an obvious safety flaw in the first place? And why train stations in particular? Surely, it would also be cheaper to avoid designing elevator doors, yet very few building owners would dare let visitors anywhere near an open elevator shaft.
The answer to that one, sadly, lies in which hazards are perceived as normal.
Ideally, every premises hazard should be assessed individually, based on how dangerous and unnecessary it is. In practice, however, safety is often judged by comparing peers to one another. As long as transit services believe that “everyone” leaves the edges of their train platforms unguarded, they will feel comfortable continuing to do so.
A Man Just Lost His Foot After Spending Half an Hour Under a MARTA Train
The danger of falling onto train tracks isn’t just a theory or a trick of the mind. It happens.
This January, a MARTA train struck a man at the Vine City station, entangling him beneath it. By the time emergency crews were able to extract him, he was unconscious and had lost a foot. (Early reports incorrectly stated that the amputation had included his entire leg).
MARTA’s immediate response to the accident was to call the man a “trespasser” and blame him for the resulting delays in service.
However, the actual reports that witnesses provided to the fire department at the time of the accident described the man collapsing and falling onto the tracks, moments before the train struck, apparently as the result of a medical event. A full investigation is still underway.
Solutions Exist, but Transit Systems Must Be Convinced to Use Them
In areas of Europe and Asia, train stations are already guarded with sliding doors much like those used for elevators. In addition to making travel safer, these doors make it easier to keep trains on schedule and regulate station temperature.
One solution proposed here in the U.S involved using lasers to detect when someone has fallen onto the tracks, and to shut down the trains in response. This wouldn’t stop injuries from the falls themselves, but it’s still more protection than most U.S stations currently provide.
It’s time MARTA took steps of its own, and civil lawsuits may be the best way to motivate it. Public organizations have the same legal duty as private ones to provide safe premises. Victims of these dangerously built stations have strong grounds to sue for compensation, in spite of how normalized the design has become.