Elgin man advocates for increased railroad crossing safety

Elgin_A crash involving a train on US 277 in Elgin leaves Robert Miller happy to be alive.  Miller was heading home from work at Fort Sill when he narrowly escaped being hit by the locomotive.  He suffered no serious injuries, but hopes his accident will lead to increased safety measures at railroad crossings.

Although 65 miles per hour is the legal speed limit, it may be too fast when crossing a railroad track.   "You think that they'd take into consideration the speed limit with the dangers on the road," he says.  "If you're at a certain angle, and you can't see the flashing lights for the warning signals for the railroad, and have enough time to react to the speed limit, then it's dangerous."

Miller stopped on his way home from work to purchase a bag of ice for his wife.  As he headed down the hill toward home, he saw flashing lights and had just enough time to slam on his brakes before skidding bout 100 feet into the side of the train.  "If I had just paused for five seconds longer without hitting my brakes, I wouldn't be talking to you right now," he says.  "The train would have hit me instead of me hitting the train."

Miller's wife, Deana, was already worried because she says he was late.  "I called him," she says.  "It'd been about almost 30 minutes, and I didn't hear from him, so I called him and he said 'I just hit a train.'"  She says she was speechless.  She says she feared the worst as she drove to where her husband waited for paramedics.

Miller says while he waited for paramedics he talked to the train conductor.  He said, 'We've had quite a few accidents right here, but we've never seen anybody walking around and talking to us.' I was just lucky enough that I got enough warning to lock it up before I slid into the train," says Miller.

He was able to call 911 on his own, and now plans to make more calls to advocate for more safety in the area.  "I think they need either to put flashing lights in the middle of the hill to warn you that there's a train, or put gates down... because you can see the lights on it."

A railroad crossing on Hwy. 277 - less than three miles away - has signs, flashing lights, and gates.  "The more warnings you have, the safer it's going to be for everyone driving," says Miller.  "I know it'd cost a bit of money but I think the money would be well worth it if it saved lives."

Caution gates usually lower about 20-30 seconds before a train nears a crossing.