UTA: Students should learn from TRAX tragedy

The only thing that Ute fan Starla Rae Bradbury wanted to do on Saturday was watch a football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The TRAX train she needed to catch was pulling away from the station, her friends were already on board and she was on the wrong side of the tracks.

The 38-year-old woman was pounding on the doors of the train when she slipped and fell. Bradbury was pronounced dead at the scene at the 900 East Station, according to recent news reports.

The death occurred at the same intersection where Ernie Soto, 48, was hit and killed in November 2002 while jaywalking across the tracks.

Saturday’s accident is an “unfortunate reminder for people to be safe,” said Justin Jones, a UTA spokesperson.

The fatal accident is the fourth such incident between TRAX trains and commuters in four days. The first three were non-fatal auto accidents.

Jones said in each of these accidents, the victims were not following posted signs and traffic signals.

“It’s unfortunate their safety, and as we saw on Saturday, their lives depended on [following the signs],” he said.

Jones also said the U presents a unique interaction with TRAX because so many people use the University Line to go to football games and other U activities.

“One of our biggest concerns is after events. It’s difficult, but not impossible, for people to stay behind the yellow line,” he said, adding that event-goers should pay particular attention to safety before and after activities.

Following the rules is a daily problem for some commuters.

Evelyn Yang, a sophomore biology student, said she rides TRAX Monday through Friday, and sees someone jaywalking every day.

“They say there’s a $100 fine for crossing [illegally], but people cross anyway,” she said.

Occasional rider Stephanie Walker said she believed most accidents could be prevented by common sense. She added that she is an overprotective parent who makes sure her children follow the posted signs.

“But who’s going to pay someone to stand there and make sure people follow the rules?” she asked.

Wang Xiaodong, a junior studying transportation management, said he thought UTA should install small fences around the tracks to slow the tide of jaywalkers, though the fences would not be placed at crosswalks.

Such fencing is already in place at the Stadium Station, but is not installed at several downtown stations.

Xiaodong also said he thought UTA could improve its educational programming, perhaps by sponsoring presentations throughout the year in the neighborhoods around the tracks.

Jones said TRAX rules already are part of the driver’s education curriculum, and the driver’s license manual includes a chapter on interacting with the trains.

Because of these additions, Jones said, “younger drivers are more aware” than seasoned drivers.

He added that UTA held a special TRAX awareness week, “Train for Safety,” Sept. 13 through 18. “UTA TRAX is standing by its record of safety,” Jones said. “The system itself is safe. As long as cars, pedestrians and trains follow their signals and signs, we can all operate safely together.”

For more information about TRAX or UTA, call 1-888-RIDE-UTA or go to www.rideuta.com.

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TRAX safety tips

1. If you have to, wait for the next train. “If you have to run for your train, that’s not your train.”

2. Always expect a train and look both ways. “You can’t bet your life that there won’t be one.”

3. Follow all signs and traffic signals, including crossing only at crosswalks. “Be aware of your surroundings.”