The goal of a dedicated research scientist to make rail grade crossings safer continues to pay off, even after his death. Decades ago, Hoy Richards was alarmed at the number of people killed or injured because of collisions with trains. Today, it’s clear that the efforts of the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) researcher saved lives.
Twenty years ago, more than 2500 fatalities were reported at rail crossings. With steady declines each year, the number dropped to 950 deaths by 2008.
“Richards was committed to making rail crossings safer,” says Steve Roop, TTI assistant agency director in the Multimodal Freight Transportation Program. “He was instrumental in the formation of the Railroad Highway Grade Crossing Committee at the Transportation Research Board and he founded a national conference 40 years ago, dedicated to that effort.”
The 2009 National Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Training Conference in New Orleans will be held in November, bringing together hundreds of public and private sector researchers, consultants and suppliers. Like Richards, their main goal is making rail crossings safer.
As part of the biennial conference, which began in 1969, a roundtable committee made up of experts in the field talk about the current best practices and latest technologies. Attendees take the information home and make safety improvements. “It’s the gathering of these experts that can have the biggest impact on safety,” Roop said. “It’s a simple idea, but it’s very effective.”
The last conference was held in 2007 and was dedicated to Richards. This year, someone will be presented the Hoy A. Richards Career Achievement Award. “Naming the award after Richards is a fitting honor for the man that had such a significant impact on rail crossing safety,” Roop said.
*Register for the 2009 National Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Training Conference.