Precipitated by driver irresponsibility, last evening’s auto crash with two trains in Long Island, NY is a reminder of the need for safety concerns around railroad tracks everywhere. Particularly dangerous are grade crossings of tracks. This horrific accident took the lives three men and sent seven others to hospitals. Tragically, just hours earlier in the day a train collided with a pedestrian nearby.
Last evening’s train crash is a reminder to drivers throughout the nation that we ignore warnings and lights at rail crossings at great risk – to ourselves and many other people. There are many grade track crossings in Central and Southwest Virginia. Most of these crossings (but not all) are equipped with a safety system that drops a barrier arm in front of the lane of traffic and flashing lights to warn drivers and pedestrians of an oncoming train. These crossings and the warning signals are so familiar that many of us take them for granted. Unfortunately, many people also drive around them.
Last evening, a pickup truck driver and two passengers drove around the grade crossing gate and attempted to cross the tracks in front of an oncoming train. The pickup truck was struck by one train traveling from the nearby train station. Seconds later, the truck was struck again by the train traveling in the opposite direction. One of the trains hit the station platform with sufficient force that part of the concrete platform was driven through the front cars of the train. Rear cars of one train caught fire. And a number of cars derailed. Nearly `1,000 people (passengers and crew) were evacuated.
According to the National Safety Council, someone is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S.
Here are some of the top safety tips to keep in mind when driving near railroad tracks and crossings. You may use the following list as a refresher or as a guide for your teen drivers.
- In a rural area, remember that not all crossings have flashing lights or gates that drop down on each side of the tracks.
- If you are in the area of a railroad crossing, Stop, Look (both ways), and Listen for an oncoming train before crossing tracks.
- Never stop on railroad tracks. If traffic will not allow you to drive your vehicle completely across the tracks, wait until traffic moves forward.
- Bet alert for vehicles around you that are required to stop before they cross railroad tracks. These include buses, school buses, trucks transporting a hazardous load, and more. Anticipate that they will stop so that you will not rear-end one of them.
- If you see flashing red traffic signal lights or if you hear a whistle, horn or bell of an approaching train, stop. You should stop at least 20 but no more than 50 feet from the nearby track.
- Never go under or around gates at railroad crossings.
- Never assume that there is not a train on the tracks. Schedules are variable. Keep in mind that a train using brakes to make an emergency stop requires more than a mile to stop.
- Always cede the right of way to the train. Don’t try to beat the train. Even if the gate is up and no lights are flashing, do not assume that there is not a train on the tracks. Sometimes signals malfunction. Keep in mind that the size of a locomotive (17 feet high and 10 feet wide) makes it appear to be moving much slower than you think when you see it.
- Be attentive to basic driving safety: don’t overdrive your headlights, slow down in darkness, rain or fog. One in four train accidents that happen at crossings occur when the driver of a vehicle runs into the side of the train.
- Don’t try to pass another vehicle when you are near a railroad crossing.
- If your vehicle stops on the tracks, run away from it at an angle in the direction of the oncoming train. The impact of the train and the vehicle will send glass, metal and other debris ahead and outward from the train.
- When crossing two sets of tracks, don’t try to jump the warning lights or the gate. Allow the train to pass completely so that you know there is not another train approaching on the other track.
Train accidents are tragic, and many people are hurt or killed. We hope these safety tips and insights will help you and your loved ones to be safe when in the vicinity of or when crossing railroad tracks. Every driver needs to be aware of these safety concerns.
If you or a loved one has been injured through no fault of your own and due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, call Altizer Law, P.C. Bettina Altizer and her team work with many kinds of personal injuries and auto/truck accidents.