Train Crossing Safety
The worst experience one of my friends, Ray, lived through was the death of Will, his younger brother. The two brothers were very close and the younger idolized the older sibling. Ray had a part-time job after high school. On occasion, Will would get his school bus driver to let him off at his brother’s workplace. Then, he would hang around until the eldest got off work and the two would get a coke at the local hangout before heading home. One afternoon, the two brothers and a co-worker were traveling towards a popular restaurant. It was a beautiful afternoon and the radio was blasting out a Stones tune. Close to 100 yards on the main road to the restaurant was a poorly designed railroad crossing. You could always hear the train, but visibility was limited due to the trees and shrubbery. No flashing lights or gates were in place. As he approached the crossing, Ray, the driver, heard the train’s whistle. He thought the train was further away…it didn’t sound that close. As it turns out, it was less than 25 feet away. The younger brother and co-worker were killed instantly. My friend survived to experience a lot of physical and emotional pain for a lifetime.
Below are safety tips published by Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing railroad crossing mishaps.
- Never drive around lowered gates -- It's illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call your local law enforcement agency or the railroad, OR dial 911.
- Never race a train to the crossing -- Even if you tie, you lose.
- Do not get trapped on a crossing. Only proceed through a crossing if you are sure you can cross the entire track.
- Get out of your vehicle if it stalls on a crossing and call your local law enforcement agency for assistance. Only attempt to restart if you can post lookouts to warn of approaching trains.
- Watch out for a second train when crossing multiple tracks.
- Expect a train on the track at any time. Trains do not follow set schedules.
Be aware trains cannot stop quickly. It can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. When the engineer can see you, it is already too late to be able to avoid a collision.
- 150-car freight train approximate stopping distance
30 mph = 3,500 feet or 2/3 of a mile
50 mph = 8,000 feet or 1 1/2 miles
- 8-car passenger train approximate stopping distance
60 mph = 3,500 feet or 2/3 of a mile
79 mph = 6,000 feet or 1 1/8 miles
Do not misjudge the train's speed and distance. A train’s large mass makes it impossible to accurately judge its speed and distance.
Operation Lifesaver also publishes safety tips for pedestrians. They include:
Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property and trespassers are subject to arrest and fines. There are over 200,000 miles of railroad tracks in the U.S. Since 1990, there have been over 3,672 people killed while trespassing on road rights-of-way and property.
DO NOT walk, run, cycle or operate all terrain vehicles (ATVs) on railroad tracks and property or through tunnels.
Cross tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe al warning signs and signals.
DO NOT hunt, fish or bungee jump from railroad trestles. There is only enough clearance on tracks for a train to pass. They are not meant to be sidewalks or pedestrian bridges.
DO NOT attempt to hop aboard railroad equipment at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb.
Be aware trains DO NOT follow set schedules. Any Time is Train Time!
REMEMBER: Rails and Recreation DO NOT Mix!
Wanda Walters, Safety Officer, USNH Rota, Spain 1998-2000