The effect of trespassing on a locomotive engineer

Millions of North Americans commute to work every day—and many of them rely on commuter trains to get to where they’re going. Sitting at the front of every one of those trains is a locomotive engineer—someone like Maurice Taylor.
Maurice has worked for Chicago’s commuter railway, Metra, for 16 years. During that time, he’s seen plenty of unsafe behavior on the trains, and experienced more than his share of close calls. Sadly, early on in his career, he was also involved in fatal trespassing incident.
Maurice shared his story in one of four new #STOPTrackTragedies videos unveiled during Rail Safety Week in September. In the video, he talks about the impact that fatal trespassing incident had on him. Here’s some of his conversation with Operation Lifesaver.
What happened that day?
It was a Sunday night and we were leaving the station. It was wintertime, and it was dark and cold. I noticed a person in the middle of the tracks. The first thing I did was I sounded the horn and I set the brakes, but he didn't move right away. So, I put the train in emergency stop. At that point, I knew he was too close, and I realized there was no way to avoid hitting him. There was nothing I could do. We struck him and he died instantly.
What was going through your mind at the time?

I was thinking, “No way. Someone's on the track.” And at that point, I was like nervous, shaken. You hear these stories all the time, but you never think it'll be you. Although there was nothing I could do, what was going through my head was: “What could I have done to save this guy?”
How does an incident like that affect a locomotive engineer?
Some engineers can't work after an incident. Some of them go on disability, they retire, they find another job. And it affects more than just that engineer—it affects their family. Sometimes it’s so bad that they can't work anymore. I've heard of stories like that.
How did you get past an incident like that?

It's tough. It's easier as the years go on; I think the way you get past an incident is just time. But you think about it. I think about it every time I go by the area—which is every day, sometimes several times a day. It's tough. You know, I don't know if you ever get really get over it. It was hard coming back to work after that.
If you could talk to people who trespass on tracks, what would you say to them?
What I would tell people is that you may think trespassing on the tracks is a good shortcut—but it's not. I’d probably tell them that it's not worth it. You know, when I see people on a track, there’s not a whole lot I can do. I can’t swerve and get out of your way. Because by the time I see you, it's already too late. If you're late, it's not worth it. There's no safe shortcut. Take the long way. Look, listen, live.