Think for a moment about the route you drive every day, whether it’s to work, school, or your favorite breakfast joint. Are there any railroad crossings on your daily route? Have you ever just assumed there’s no train coming and driven straight over the tracks? All too often, we don’t even slow down to check for trains, and we forget just how dangerous railroad tracks can be.
In the United States, someone is hit by a train once every two hours, and the majority of these incidents are completely avoidable. We can control our cars and trucks much easier than conductors can control their trains. If a railroad conductor is traveling at 55 mph and sees a vehicle stopped on the tracks, it can take a mile or more for them to stop the train.
We could all do a better job of paying attention and being careful around railroad tracks. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe at work and at home:
- Do not get trapped by traffic on the tracks. Only start proceeding through a crossing if you are sure you can completely clear it without stopping at all.
- If you happen to get stuck at the crossing, get out of your vehicle right away. Immediately call the 1-800 number posted at the crossing to alert any approaching trains.
- When you’re driving a big rig, make sure your trailer jack is in the up position. This is one of the most common reasons that trucks get stuck on railroad tracks.
- Never stop closer than 15 feet from any crossing, especially with the amount of overhang (at least 3 feet) that both your rig and the train have.
- From a distance, trains appear to be moving much slower than they actually are. If you see one heading your way and question whether or not to stop, be overly cautious and stop. Stay on the safe side – especially at unmarked crossings.
- Never drive around the safety gates or try to beat a speeding train. It’s illegal and potentially deadly. If you suspect that the signal or gates are malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted by the crossing signal.
- Expect a train at every crossing! Trains don’t always follow set schedules; if you expect a train at every crossing, you will always be prepared to handle the crossing safely.
Almost 50% of crashes happen at crossings that don’t have automatic gates and flashing lights. As a professional driver, you’ll likely encounter these crossings frequently, which is why it’s so important to take every railroad crossing seriously. Remember: when a truck and train collide, the train will win every time. That’s not a competition you want to enter.