Railroad Crossing Safety

It may seem easy to avoid a collision with a 200-ton locomotive. Yet the fact is that a vehicle or pedestrian is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S., according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit group that promotes railroad safety. Follow these tips and use extra caution the next time you’re at a railroad crossing:

Behind The Wheel

  1. Trains always win: they always get the right of way, don’t follow set schedules and can move in any direction. Always expect a train.
  2. Trains can be deceptive, too. Because of the size of a freight train, it’s moving faster and is closer than you think. Plus, trains are quieter than ever, so lower your radio and listen closely as you approach a crossing.
  3. Even if the engineer sees you, a train can take up to a mile to stop once the emergency brakes are applied.
  4. Although you’ve seen it in action movies, never try to beat a train or drive around lowered gates. Even after a train passes, wait for the gates to rise completely, since another train could be coming from the other direction.

If your vehicle ever stalls on the tracks, exit immediately and run away from the tracks toward where the train is coming from. If you run in the same direction as the train, it could push your vehicle and debris toward you.

On Foot

  1. Train tracks are private property. Walking or playing on the tracks is trespassing… and dangerous!
  2. Stay alert when crossing railroad tracks or standing close to a platform. Stop texting and remove your headphones any time you’re near the tracks.
  3. It’s illegal and dangerous to cross train tracks, except at a designated pedestrian or road crossing.
  4. A train can extend more than three feet beyond the rail in either direction, so keep your distance as it approaches.
  5. If you see a vehicle stopped on the tracks, immediately call 911 or the number on the Emergency Notification Sign posted near the crossing. It will list the crossing number and street so that train operators can be notified as early as possible.

For more tips on driving safety, visit our Safety Information Center.

By Nathan Erb

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