Despite rain not being in the forecast, diners in a Florida restaurant thought they heard a clap of thunder during their dinner on September 6. What they actually heard was something far more tragic: the sound of a train colliding with a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, the driver had attempted to go around the railroad crossing gate, even though the crossing gate’s arm was down blocking the roadway. The driver did not beat the train, and they lost their life.
Avoiding risky behavior
Just last year, train-related accidents killed nearly 300 people and one-third of those accidents involved people attempting to drive around a lowered crossing gate arm. Whether these people were impatient or running late, the consequences of their actions were fatal. When motor vehicles meet trains, it often means bad news for cars, their drivers and drivers’ families.
Because of the mass of a train, a locomotive traveling 55 miles per hour needs roughly one mile or about 18 football fields to come to a stop. By comparison, a truck traveling at the same speed needs approximately one football field or 100 yards to stop. The odds of a train operator recognizing and stopping in time for a driver on the tracks are virtually nonexistent.
Sharing the road with trains
It’s best to assume that a train is coming anytime you approach a railroad crossing. A few ways to prevent a collision with a train include:
· Pay attention to your surroundings. Distracted driving is something you should always avoid but is especially important around railroad crossings and locomotives. You need to be able to hear a train horn and identify stopping points for railroad crossings.
· Don’t be a hero. Did you know trains don’t always pull their cars? Trains sometimes push them too. Not only is it sometimes difficult to recognize the train’s direction of travel, but they can be quiet which means they approach quieter, and therefore appear faster and are closer than you first realize.
· Be predictable. Stopping and crossing train tracks at designated points is crucial to your safety. You should never cross train tracks at non-designated points because of the risk of getting stuck. Stopping at or behind those points can prevent a train striking you and your vehicle.
Accidents happen, but most train accidents are preventable. Taking chances around a moving train can jeopardize your life and makes adhering to good safety practices even more important. By using common sense and driving safely, you can keep yourself and your family safe when you cross railroad tracks or drive near trains.