Injuries and deaths occur at railroad crossings every day, but most of these tragedies are preventable. Conscientious motorists keep themselves informed and their passengers safe.
Unless you’re at a crossing, it’s illegal to be on or near train tracks in any sort of vehicle, but ensuring your own safety — as well as that of your passengers and of anyone else in the vicinity — requires hypervigilance. It’s easy for drivers to forget that even in an emergency, trains can take a mile (or more) to stop. They’re also three feet wider than the tracks — on both sides.
Safe Motorists Always Stop at Railroad Crossings
You should stop because trains can’t.
Well…they can, but it takes a while. If you assume a train will stop when the engineer sees a car on the tracks, you’re right — but trains need at least 18 football fields of track to reach a complete stop. Don’t risk it.
7 Simple Steps for Safely Navigating Railroad Crossings
- Stop, look both ways, and listen. Remember that trains always have the right of way.
- Make sure you have room to get across. Once you enter the crossing, keep moving.
- Stop 15’ away from flashing red lights, lowered gates, a signaling flagman or a stop sign.
- Never try to drive around a lowering gate. Never ignore signals, and always use caution.
- Before you begin to cross, wait for gates to fully rise and for all lights to stop flashing.
- Never assume that there is only one train coming from a single direction.
- If your car stalls in a crossing, get out of there and call the number on the sign, or 911.
Don’t Race It. Don’t Risk It. It’s Never Worth It.
Trying to beat a train is like trying to wrestle a Wookie, but even dumber.
It’s essential to understand the signs and signals. Stop at crossings, assume there could be more than one train coming from either direction, give yourself plenty of room for your car on both sides of the tracks, and cross completely.
There’s Always More to Learn
They say knowledge is power for a reason. If you’re interested in learning more about railroad crossing safety or want to share information with others, we’ve assembled the below links for you.
Federal Railroad Administration Resources for Further Reading
- National Strategy to Prevent Trespassing on Railroad Property Report to Congress
- FRA Training Videos for Law Enforcement & First Responders Law Enforcement Rail Safety
- Explore the new Trespass & Suicide Dashboard FRA’s Interactive Data Visualization Tool
- A Dangerous New Trend Is Ending Lives Taking Selfies on Train Tracks
- Trespasser & Grade Crossing Fatality Prevention Summit Watch the October 2018 FRA
- GX DASH! Introducing a New National Railroad Crossing Data Visualization Tool
- Model State Action Plan & Noteworthy Practices Download New Resource Tool for States
- By The Numbers Railroad Crossing Safety & Trespass Prevention Stats in Depth
- New Interactive Resources for Rail Crossing Safety For Motorists AND Pedestrians
- 2017 FRA Grade Crossing Research Needs Presentations Now Available for Download