Railroad crossing safety is important. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a person or vehicle is hit by a train every four hours, and most incidents occur at a railroad track gate crossing.
Waiting for a freight train to pass at a rail crossing can be inconvenient when you have places to go and people to see. However, it’s worth losing a few minutes of your day to stay back until it is safe to cross. Follow these essential railroad crossing safety tips that are right on track to help you avoid a train collision with your motor vehicle.
Railroad Crossing Safety Tips
Signs signs, everywhere there’s signs.
Look for railroad crossing warning signs and pavement markings designed to alert drivers that railroad tracks are ahead. In addition to the round yellow Advance Warning sign with an X and the letters RR, other signs can indicate the number of tracks present, and in established quiet zones, that the train won’t sound its horn.
When approaching a railroad crossing, reduce your speed and look both ways. Stop for red flashing lights and lowered arms. Also, watch out for vehicles required to come to a complete stop before crossing railroad tracks regardless of whether a train is approaching. These include school buses and vehicles carrying hazardous materials.
Don’t try to beat a train.
Never attempt to go around a lowered crossing gate or ignore signs or warning devices like flashing lights posted at a railroad crossing. Trains are faster-moving and quieter than you think. Plus, they can’t stop on a dime. A train traveling at 55-60 mph can take up to a mile to stop when applying emergency brakes! So, stay vigilant and always stop for trains; they have the right of way and can’t stop for you. Stopping will keep you from harm, and it’s also the law in every state.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
Turn down your car stereo and open your windows as you approach the crossing to listen for an approaching train. Check both directions that ALL tracks are clear before attempting to cross; there could be two or more trains. In rare cases, a rail crossing gate can malfunction due to signal issues or other problems, so always stay alert. Malfunctions can be reported by calling the USDOT number on the Emergency Notification sign posted at the crossing.
Don’t stay on the tracks for long.
Never stop on the tracks! When traffic is heavy, wait off the tracks until you can completely cross without braking. When waiting to cross, allow plenty of space between your car and the railroad tracks, staying between 15 feet and 50 feet away. Remember, trains are huge vehicles that will overhang the tracks by several feet. If you are stalled on tracks with a train coming, abandon your vehicle immediately and call 911.
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