railroad safety tips for drivers

05/01/2018

There are over 140,000 public railroad crossings in the US.  It is estimated that there are an additional 50,000 private crossings. Nationwide, in the last 10 years there have been over 30,000 railroad crossing accidents resulting in 3,600 fatalities. The primary cause of these incidents is driver error.

Uncontrolled railroad crossings can be very dangerous, but about half of all railroad crossing collisions occur at sites with warning devices. Again, the main cause is drivers trying to beat the train even when they know it's coming.  A freight train traveling 55 mph will need over a mile or more to stop. In most instances, a train cannot stop in time to avoid an accident.

Since a train cannot change directions, they always have the right of way. Railroad crossing warnings come in different shapes and sizes including active and passive warnings.  Commercial vehicles and private passenger vehicles need to take extra precautions when approaching a RR crossing. 

Here are some rail crossing safety tips for all drivers:

  • Always stop, or slow to safe speed, and look both ways before crossing a railroad.
  • Expect a train on any track at any time. 
  • Expect a train coming from either direction.
  • Never get trapped on a crossing.  Train schedules are unpredictable.  Once you start your crossing, keep going.  Keep in mind a train has a 3 foot overhang from the tracks.
  • Never drive around a crossing gate.
  • Never race a train.  You will lose.
  • Don’t misjudge the speed of a train.  The size of the train makes it appear to be going at a slower speed. 
  • At crossings with an obstructed view, always stop and proceed slowly until you can safely view the crossing. 
  • At multiple track crossings, if a train crosses in one direction, look in the other direction before proceeding.

Railroad crossings are a part of many motorists' daily travel. Drivers should not take railroad crossings for granted and use appropriate precautions before crossing. Remember, in an accident, the train always wins.  A vehicle-train accident is almost always life altering for the vehicle driver…if you survive.