No matter where you drive, you’ll see them: intersections of roads and railway lines. Some of these lines have gates that descend whenever trains are about to cross the road. Some do not, requiring drivers to be extra careful. After all, a train with its immensely heavy loads cannot stop on a dime and will collide with whatever – or whoever – is on the track. At Sharp and Fellows, we want you to stay safe where trains operate. Here are the truths behind three common myths about railroad crossings you can use to protect yourself.
Myth: Railroad crossing collisions are rare.
Reality: They’re not.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration (or FRA), in 2016 there were approximately 2,025 collisions accounting for 265 fatalities and 798 injuries sustained. This number could be higher as the FRA admits that reporting on these numbers nationwide can be difficult. While this is down sharply from previous decades as technology like automatic gates have been introduced, not a day goes by without a news report of someone’s vehicle being on the tracks as a train speeds through.
Myth: Drivers will always know a train is coming.
Reality: Not always.
While it is law in most areas that railway crossings must have an open view, some intersection can still have trees, fencing, or structures blocking the view of the tracks. Where more than a single track is present, a parked train and its cargo could hide an oncoming train. This leads into our final myth.
Myth: Collisions between vehicles and trains always occur because the driver broke the law and tried the beat the train.
Reality: Not true.
As stated before, it is law that railroad companies and their conductors do everything in their power to warn people of incoming trains. Courts have recognized that must have a reasonable opportunity to learn of a train’s approach to help them act accordingly. A crossing can be labeled extra-hazardous if either permanent or temporary obstacles obstruct the view of drivers, and railroads must include everything from signal lights and bells to employees waving flags to signal drivers to stay off the rails.
Of course, you should always do everything in your own power to keep yourself safe on railroad crossings, even if it means rolling down the window and listening for the telltale horn blowing or engine chugging. From design and engineering to maintenance and construction, Sharp and Fellows is dedicated to keeping the railroad a safe and efficient mode of transportation.