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Nov 16, 2004

When you work in noise control, you inevitably hear complaints about the noise from train horns. Abutters would, understandably, prefer that trains not blow their horns. The problem is that often when a train strikes a person or vehicle on railroad tracks, the railroad/authority is sued! Even though most reasonable people would think that the trespasser is at fault (after all, the train is exactly where it’s supposed to be), railroads and transit authorities still have to defend themselves from court action. As a result, many railroad operators would just prefer to blow their horns to limit their liability.

I mention this because the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran an article about a lawsuit brought by a woman who was struck by a freight train:

A Jeannette woman who was slightly injured after being struck by a train while walking along railroad tracks sued Norfolk Southern Corp. Thursday for failing to warn pedestrians that trains travel on tracks.

This article isn’t directly about horn-blowing, but you can see some of the parallels - the plaintiff apparently feels that more action needs to be taken to warn trespassers about the presence of trains.

Train operators don’t sound their horns to annoy residents, they sound their horns to prevent litigation. Any long-term solution to horn noise will have to address liability.

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