RAILROAD CROSSING SAFETY TIPS

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Defensive Driving Online

In June 2009, five teenagers were killed in a tragic accident in Detroit when their car was hit by a passenger train. This accident occurred in spite of the fact that all safety measures “including gates and flashing lights” were functioning effectively.

Avoiding a collision with a train may seem like common-sense; however, as statistics show, such collisions are tragically commonplace. Did you know that a potentially fatal car-train collision occurs every 90 minutes in the United States? According to the Federal Highway Administration, accidents at highway-train crossings resulted in 299 fatalities and 817 injuries in 2007.

Many of these accidents occur when drivers try to “beat” a train across the tracks. Remember that when a car goes up against a train, nobody wins. The average train weighs 12 million pounds, while the average car weighs only 4,000 pounds; a speeding train can crush a car like a soda can. However, the passengers in the car aren’t the only ones at risk. A car on the tracks can derail a train, endangering the lives of train passengers. If the train is carrying dangerous freight, like volatile chemicals, a car-train crash can result in environmental damage that puts entire communities at risk. When you race a train, you are putting countless lives at risk.

Approximately two-thirds of all car-train accidents occur during daylight, when drivers should be able to see approaching trains! These accidents occur for a number of reasons.

1. An approaching train is an optical illusion; drivers often don’t realize how fast a train is moving.

2. Drivers think trains will be able to stop for them. In reality, the average freight train travelling at 50 MPH will need 1.5 miles to come to a full stop.

3. Drivers ignore safety devices like lights, gates, and bells.

A few simple safety measures could prevent these tragic crashes. First and foremost, be patient and don’t take risks.

Keep these other rules in mind:

1. Always obey signs, gates, lights, bells, and other safety equipment. Never dodge a gate in order to “beat” a train.

2. Don’t start crossing a track if you can’t get all the way across. Wait for traffic on the other side to clear before beginning your crossing.

3. If your car stalls while you are on the tracks, get out immediately, move away from the tracks, and call the police. Your life is more valuable than your property.

4. Only cross at designated crossings.

5. If the crossing doesn’t have gates or other warning equipment, make sure you check in both directions before crossing. Then, turn off your radio and listen for a train. If you can see or hear a train, don’t begin your crossing.

6. If you are at a crossing that does have gates and/or lights, make sure to look both ways and listen even if the gates are raised and the lights are off. Safety equipment can and does malfunction.

7. If there are multiple tracks, make sure you check all of them before crossing.

8. Never walk, run, or cycle on or near train tracks.

9. Stay off train bridges and out of train tunnels.

10. Remember that school buses and trucks carrying flammable liquids are required to stop at train crossings, regardless of whether or not a train is approaching. If you are behind one of these vehicles, be aware that they will have to stop before the crossing.

11. Common driving distractions like talking on a cell phone, eating and drinking, and texting can result in a failure to observe proper safety procedures while crossing a train track. Be an alert and responsible driver.

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