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Slow the Trains: Save a Life

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The Palo Alto community has been devastated by the tragic loss of lives on the Caltrain tracks. We now have a suicide hot spot in the section of the tracks at West Meadow and Charleston. We need time as a community to come together and address the underlying problem of teen depression. It is well documented that direct action must be taken at a suicide hot spot to deter further attempts. We ask Caltrain to implement a schedule, effective immediately, of slowing all trains from West Meadow to Charleston to a speed of 5 MPH in order to prevent further suicides on the tracks in this area. In preparing this request our research has turned up a number of facts that support this measure. 1. They will not go elsewhere. Research has shown that individuals bent on suicide at a hot spot will not simply move further down the tracks. See links. 2. If you restrict access to the ‘means’ you will reduce the number of incidents. It has been proven that even a small impediment at a suicide hot spot reduces the number of incidents at that spot. This is why we are also watching the tracks. We believe that this vigilance, in combination with slower trains will reduce the number of incidents and perhaps stop them. 3. In the case of a suicide hot spot the threshold for the individuals who may be considering suicide is lowered. This is especially true for teens . This means the existence of the hot spot and access to it is increasing the number of incidents. 4. Although teen suicide has many possible causes and there are many preventive measures we may take as a community, slowing the trains is a short term solution. Although a train at 5mph may be no less deadly, we believe it will be less attractive while giving us the chance to clear the tracks and giving the driver time to stop. Currently it takes the commuter trains only seconds to clear the crossing at 60mph. At 5mph this would increase by a matter of seconds, a negligible delay for drivers when compared with a human life. Slower trains will reduce the allure of this area, allow time for track watchers to clear the tracks, and give Caltrain engineers the chance to stop the train if necessary. Most importantly, slower trains now will give us time as a community to work together in launching a multi factorial effort to curb teen depression and suicide over the long term. Please sign our petition asking Cal Trains to slow their trains and then forward this to anyone you know who may be concerned with the well being of our teens and the healing of our community. Time is of the essence. The next Caltrain board meeting is December 3 and we're hoping to get this on the agenda. Let's send them a strong message from our community. Slow the trains, Save a life!


Slow the Trains, a group of concerned local parents and professionals. Questions may be directed to

Links (conference held in Aug. on fatalities) (rail safety education) (info on conductor’s reaction to rail suicides) (rail safety brochure) (another rail safety brochure Sources * "The effect of contagion appears to be strongest among adolescents (7,8 )" CDC: * "Clustering was two to four times more common among adolescents and young adults than among other age groups." Suicide Clusters: An Examination of Age-Specific Effects * "If a particular method or site was used in previous suicides or suicide attempts, modification efforts should be addressed to these methods or sites first." CDC * "Causal Analysis and Countermeasures to Prevent Rail Suicide" American Association of Suicidology July 2009 * "Means Matter - Impulsivity and Crises" Harvard School of Public Health
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