Metra highlights track safety

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Mark Kalina is thankful to be on a train rather than under one. (WLS)

As Metra tries to highlight ways to stay safe on the train and near the tracks, Mark Kalina is thankful to be on a train rather than under one.

Four years ago, Kalina was in his senior year at the Ohio State University when he made the almost fatal decision of cutting across railroad tracks on his way back to campus. A train was stopped on the tracks when Kalina says he lost his footing.

"That's when my button-up shirt got snagged on a rail car, my feet slid down and my sleeve was the only thing holding me up, right them the train started kicking into motion," said Kalina about his accident.

Kalina was pulled under the moving train. He said he ended up on his stomach in between two tracks with his hands covering his head.

"It took what felt like hours for it to pass over," said Kalina. "After it did I rolled over and noticed my left leg gone, I noticed that I hurt my pinky pretty bad and I didn't even notice my right leg, but that was missing."

As part of the Operation Life Saver campaign, Kalina is in the Chicago area to alert Metra riders about the dangers of trespassing across railroad tracks. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, Illinois ranks fifth in the nation for trespassing deaths and third for fatalities caused by vehicles colliding with trains.

Metra engineer Josh McCleary said he sees cars going around the gates every day.

"One of the things I learned in training is you cannot tell how far a train is, just by looking at it. There is no way to tell how fast it is going just by the sheer brightness of light," said McCleary.

McCleary says in an emergency situation, it could take up to a half mile to stop a train. Metra hopes a new law that doubles the fines for people who go around the gates will help reduce the accidents.

The Operation Life Saver program doesn't end on the train. Metra takes its safety message to about a thousand schools throughout the Chicago area with the goal of educating people while they are young.
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