Tips for Avoiding Railroad Crossing Accidents

car hit by train

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are thousands of auto accidents each year that involve a collision with a train. This is due, in part, to the fact that from a distance trains often appear to be traveling much slower than they really are. Although auto-train accidents are not as common as other transportation-related crashes, more than 600 railroad companies are still very active in moving passengers and freight over hundreds of thousands of miles of rail with nearly a quarter million railroad crossings. A substantial volume that annually accounts for hundreds of drivers and passengers killed and thousands seriously injured in vehicular accidents with trains.

What Are Common Causes of Car and Train Collisions?

Not only is it difficult for a driver or pedestrian to judge the actual speed at which a train is approaching, but most people also fail to realize how difficult it is for a speeding train to stop. This and other factors related to railroad traffic accidents are listed below, including:

  • malfunctioning of warning systems
  • damage to boom gates, flashing lights, and warning bells
  • human error in violating crossing regulations
  • failed rail switch or faulty rail signaling device
  • poorly maintained areas around rail tracks
  • drivers trying to outrun a speeding locomotive
  • obstacles that block the view at high-traffic crossings
  • driver distractions and driver intoxication
  • unregulated crossings, especially in rural areas

As you can see, auto-train collisions are not always the fault of the train operator or the rail company itself. In fact, mechanical failures and rail defects are rare when compared to other common causes of train collisions. Time and again, accident investigations have shown that reckless, careless or distracted driving was the culprit that led to a tragic event.

Things You Can Do to Prevent a Deadly Train Crash

Railroad transport companies and railway systems are hoping that advances in technology will make trains and rail traffic safer in the future. Nonetheless, some experts say it would be extremely difficult and very costly to develop a system that prevents all auto-train collisions. As a driver, here are some of the things you can do to protect yourself and your passengers from tragic consequences, such as:

  • never assume railroad crossing equipment is working
  • let your window down and listen for approaching trains
  • remember patience is key to avoiding a collision with a train
  • avoid all driver distractions when approaching a crossing
  • take extra care where multiple tracks are involved
  • make sure your vehicle or trailer can clear track height
  • never try to beat a train by driving around crossing arms
  • do not stop or turn the vehicle off sitting on the track
  • always slow down and carefully look in both directions

Although waiting for a train to clear an intersection may require a little extra time and patience, it is a small price to pay. Trains are among the heaviest vehicles used in the transport industry on land and, even traveling at a speed comparable to highway traffic, it can take miles for a moving train to come to a complete stop. Unfortunately, even a minor train accident can result in a loss of limb, permanent disability, or death.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto-train collision, don't hesitate to call Schackow & Mercadante to review the details of your personal injury claim in a timely manner.