Five people were hit by trains in South Florida just this week — and two were killed. That brings year-to-date deaths on rail tracks to more than a dozen in South Florida.
Several of these cases are being investigated as suicides or attempted suicides. In response to this week’s tragic collisions, Tri-Rail and others are trying to figure out how to reach out to people before they take desperate measures.
"It’s going to take a community effort,” said Bonnie Arnold, a spokesperson with Tri-Rail. “It's education, it's outreach and it’s letting people who are contemplating something like this know they don’t have to and [the] help they can get. It’s been a very sad time for some very troubled people and it’s been a very sad time at the agency.”
Tri-Rail is working with the Florida Department of Transportation, Brightline and the 2-1-1 assistance hotline to put together a “program of discouragement.” It’s currently in the early stages of planning for the public information campaign, but will include PSA spots about where people can get help that will include an ad with a train engineer who worked on a train that struck a person and a person who was distracted near rail lines and had a close call.
“We’re finding that distractions are increasing these incidents,” Arnold said.
Tri-Rail has also identified a half dozen locations where they plan to install 2-1-1 hotline signs where there have been deaths in the past.
“We’ve tracked all of the incidents throughout the corridor for the years we’ve been operating, and when you color code those incidents it becomes very apparent where these are happening,” Arnold adds.
Having drones patrol those areas has also been floated as a potential solution in order to monitor certain critical areas.
In 2016, the four counties of South Florida saw 14 deaths on rails. There were 22 in 2015, 23 in 2014 and 17 in 2013.