Operation Lifesaver, America's leader in rail safety education, reports that a person or a vehicle is hit by a train about every three hours…every day. Railroad collisions are a serious driving safety concern, and deadly accidents happen much more often than you might think.
Plenty of drivers pay little or no attention to railroad crossing signs when they routinely drive across tracks during daily life. But it's important to realize that many trains don't run on set schedules and can be going in either direction at any time of day.
These are some railroad safety tips to remember every time you drive.
Never Ignore Warnings Signals
Even if you're in a hurry, you should never even consider driving around the safety arms at a train crossing when the arms have been lowered and the lights are flashing. Only cross train tracks at designated roadway crossings and obey all the signs and signals presented. Just because the train appears to be far in the distance doesn't mean that you should ever try to beat it across the tracks.
Train locomotives are huge and powerful, and in fact, the average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds. This means that your vehicle doesn't stand much of a chance if it comes into contact with one of these massive beasts.
Trains Arrive Faster Than You Expect
Many crashes take place each year that involve drivers running into the sides of trains because they are driving too fast for weather or lighting conditions. To avoid overdriving your headlights, slow down so that distance in front of you is illuminated enough to see oncoming trains. Trains approach faster than you may estimate, and by the time you see the train at the crossing, it may be too late to come to a stop.
Make Sure There's Enough Room to Cross
Even if there is no train approaching in the distance, make sure that there is enough room to cross the railroad track before starting to drive over it. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a line of cars on the middle of the tracks when a train suddenly appears in the distance and is traveling in your direction. If there are multiple tracks, you should avoid crossing immediately after a train passes in case there is a second train approaching on another track.
Never Walk on Tracks or Trespass Near Railroads
Although some people use railroad areas as makeshift hiking trails and ATV routes, railroad tracks and service roads are private property – not public areas. Unsuspecting joggers sometimes don't hear approaching trains because they're listening to headphones and pets can become dangerously startled by oncoming trains during walks.
Trains have the right of way 100 percent of the time, and this even applies to police cars, emergency vehicles and pedestrians. Over half of vehicle-train collisions take place at crossings that are equipped with automatic signals, so heed their warnings and stay safe around trains!