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Improving Crossing Safety for Vehicles

Few realize that there are more than 250,000 highway-rail grade crossings. With as many as 96% of train accidents and injuries occurring at highway rail crossings, drivers, pedestrians and the railroad industry all benefit from steps that produce increased safety at crossings. The following tips may help you prevent an accident and the catastrophic injuries that can result. These measures may also help you determine a potential theory of liability for recovery if you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a railroad crossing accident.

Most safety experts recommend the following steps to prevent vehicle related injuries at railroad crossings.

  • Slow down and be prepared to stop at the first railroad warning sign.
  • Do not drive around lowered gates. Call the number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency if you suspect a signal is malfunctioning.
  • If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, immediately get everyone out and far away from the tracks. You should move away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is approaching. Then, call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
  • At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching in either direction.
  • Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied.
  • Do not be fooled by an optical illusion - the train you see is closer and moving faster than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
  • Expect a train at any time on any track. Be certain you can stop safely if a train is approaching.
  • Do not rely on train whistles or horns to warn you. In-cab noise may mask the train's warning.
  • Do not attempt to cross the tracks unless you are certain the vehicle you are driving will clear on the other side. Never shift gears while crossing railroad tracks. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
  • Be cautious of obstructions like vegetation or buildings that may block the view of an approaching train.
  • Be alert to weather and how it affects conditions at the crossings. Snow and fog can all effect crossing safety.
  • Look up and down the tracks. It is difficult to judge the distance and approach speed of a train as it moves toward the crossing. If in doubt, be safe, stop, and wait.


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