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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Staying Safe at Railroad Crossings

Did you know that a freight train traveling at 50 miles per hour, pulling 100 cars, takes one mile to stop? So in a crash with a motor vehicle, the train always wins. A train hits someone in America every 115 minutes often with fatal results. According to Operation Lifesaver, a national non-profit organization, nearly 2,000 Americans are killed and injured at highway/rail grade crossings each year. This number is greater than people dying in commercial and general aviation crashes combined.

Because your life, and the lives of others, depends on your skills as a driver, the following are some suggestions for you to think about when approaching highway/rail grade crossings:

  • Trains do not run on set schedules and can be anywhere, on any track, at any time, going in any direction.

  • Always yield the right of way to the train because the engineer cannot yield to you. Remember, it takes the average fully loaded freight train 1 mile to come to a stop.

  • Never ignore active warnings at crossings. Locomotives are huge; 17 feet high and 10 feet wide. As a result, they appear to be traveling much slower than we think when viewed from a slight angle at the crossing. The combination of size and angle create an illusion and fool our minds into thinking the train is farther away than it actually is.

  • Trains will arrive at a crossing faster than you expect. One in four highway-rail crossings takes place when drivers run into the side of the train. Often it's because the driver is going too fast for conditions such as darkness, rainy weather or fog.

  • Always remember to look and listen when you see advance-warning signs indicating a rail-highway crossing.

  • Never pass another vehicle when approaching a railroad crossing

  • Before starting across the tracks, be sure there‚Äôs room to get across completely

  • If driving a "stick-shift," be sure to shift well ahead of or after the railroad crossing to avoid getting stuck on the tracks.

  • If your vehicle is ever stalled or trapped on the tracks and a train is approaching, quickly get yourself and all other passengers out. Don't try to take any other items with you. When the train strikes the vehicle it will send flying metal and glass ahead and outward from the locomotive. This is why it is extremely important that you and your passengers run far enough away from the tracks and in the direction of the oncoming train so you will not be hit by flying debris.

When it comes to railroad crossings, it is your responsibility to avoid a train since it cannot avoid you. Always keep in mind that any time is train time. Remember to look, listen and live. Stopping may add 60 seconds to your journey while not stopping could put an end to it completely.

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