As long as roads and railroad tracks have coexisted, railroad crossings have been hotspots for collisions and serious injuries. According to Operation Lifesaver, a non profit organization for rail safety education a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours. While the frequency of these accidents is on the decline, railway related accidents have an extremely high rate of fatality.
Below are a few safety tips and facts courtesy of the good people at Operation Lifesaver.
- - Freight trains don't travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.
- All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it's illegal trespass and highly dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks it's too late. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile—the length of 18 football fields—to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
- - The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car. We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
- Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.
- - A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.
- -Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
- -Today's trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale "clackety-clack." Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster, than you think.
- -There are over 160,000 miles of railroad tracks in the United States (Association of American Railroads). Remember to cross them only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there. At many crossings you'll see a sign bearing a number. Use that to identify your exact location when calling to report an emergency.
- - Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.