Choo-Choo Railroad Crossing Safety

This article may help to save your life

Keep aware and know the rules!

By Dan Deary, posted in Trucking Safety on August 02, 2016 and updated on June 30, 2021

railroad crossing safetyChances are, you have sat in your car at a railroad crossing once or twice during your driving years. Maybe you have even seen those cars that are actually stopped on the tracks when the flashing gate comes down. It’s important to know what to do when you are in a railroad crossing zone…better to be safe than sorry.

In 2012, there were 1, 953 train/ motor collisions, about an 83% decrease from 1972 when that number was 12,000, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Just recently in Chicago, a 5 year old child was killed when the driver of the minivan she was a passenger in, ignored an activated train crossing signal drove around the crossing gate. Surveillance footage confirmed the driver ignoring the signal(Article Here). This tragedy could have been easily avoided.

Here are some tips that will help keep you from being a statistic.

  • When you are approaching a railroad crossing, make sure you look both ways before crossing.
  • Try to avoid distracting behaviors such as, listening to music on your headphones or texting; these activities might make it difficult to hear an oncoming train.
  • Never try to beat the train. Even if you were the fastest in your college class, you won’t be able to outrun this train. Remember even in you tied, you lose. Many people believe that an oncoming train can stop in time if their car were to stall on the tracks. However, most times that is not true. A 150-car freight train traveling 50 miles per hour will take over a mile to stop!
  • If a vehicle is stopped behind the guard, be sure that when you stop, to leave enough room between you and the car in front of you so that they have enough room to back up if they need to.
  • Expect a train at any given time, as they do not run on a regular schedule.

Railroad Crossing Safety Begins With You

freight trainAccording to the Triple A Digest of Motor Laws Railroad Crossing, a person approaching a railroad must stop within 50 feet but no less than 15 feet. The person may not proceed if the mechanical device gives warning of the oncoming train, the sound is audible, or if the approaching train is visible. Remember, no racing! Failing to follow these regulations could result in a ticket or your license being revoked.

According to the US Department of Transportation, there are about 5,800 train-car crashes each year in the United States, most of which occur at railroad crossings. These accidents cause over 600 deaths and injure about 2,300. More than half of all fatal train accidents occur at train crossings that do not have active safety devises or have safety devices that are simply inadequate or, in some cases, have no safety devices to alert unsuspecting motorists.

During the day, about 75% of car and train collisions involve the train hitting the car. At night, about 50% of the time, the car runs into the train at an inadequately marked crossing. The lesson here is to drive safe and expect the unexpected at train crossings.

Following these tips will help you in being more aware and prepared next time you approach that oncoming freight train.

About the author:
Dan Deary is owner of All Pro Truck Body Shop, a truck body repair shop located in Phoenix Arizona , specializing in commercial body shop and fleet collision repairs.

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