Protecting Your Family From a Disastrous Railroad Crossing Collision
Trains are an absolute marvel for fast, reliable commercial and passenger transportation. Unlike cars and trucks, trains travel on a specific route without the need to stop at crossings or get stuck in traffic. Trains are also less likely than airplanes to be “grounded” for inclement weather. As a result of their advantages, trains are highly respected in commerce.
However, despite trains’ commercial advantages, many motorists consider trains to be a nuisance. Some drivers will go to great lengths to avoid waiting at a train crossing. Unfortunately, these stunts can put hundreds of lives at risk every year as a direct result of drivers not knowing or caring about train traffic safety.
Train Physics and Railroad Track Risks
It’s a sad fact that rather than seeing a potentially hazardous crossing, many drivers view railroad tracks as inconvenient speed bumps that delay their drive. What these drivers don’t realize is that these “speed bumps” can very easily put them, their families, and their cars in serious danger. In fact, motorists are almost 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle—and yet, drivers pay more attention at traffic intersections than they do at railroad crossings. So, the next time you roll up to a set of train tracks, make sure that before you attempt to cross, you remember the following train facts and limitations, as well as proper train safety.
- Train speed. Depending on the type of track it is on, a train can travel between ten and 250 miles per hour. Even if you maxed out your car’s speedometer, the likelihood of your being able to outrun a train is pretty slim.
- Train weight. The average sedan weighs roughly 3,000 pounds. The average train weighs closer to 400,000 pounds and can reach weights of nearly 6,000 tons. To put this into perspective, the force of a 400,000-pound, slow-moving train cold easily crush a 3,000 pound sedan as if it were a soda can.
- Train size. Trains are approximately twice as wide as an average car and three times as tall. They also have at least a three-foot spread that extends past the width of the tracks themselves. Furthermore, trains are constructed out of dense steel and iron. In contrast, steel is used only for the frame of a car; the shell is made up of mostly plastic, aluminum (ironically, the same material as soda cans), glass, and rubber.
- Train stopping distance. Depending on how fast a train is traveling, it can take up to several miles for it to come to a complete stop. By the time an engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks, it’s much too late for him to stop.
- Train schedules and right of way. Trains can travel at anytime, anywhere without a fixed schedule. Although passenger trains generally have a boarding time and an estimated arrival time, motorists can’t predict when a train will arrive at a crossing. Furthermore, trains will not stop for vehicles or pedestrians in their way—they can’t. In other words, trains have the right of way 100% of the time, no matter the time or situation.
Despite the dangers associated with railroads and crossings, motorists and pedestrians alike can take certain precautions to ensure safe passage. Please keep the following tips in mind:
- Never ignore active warnings at crossings. Even if you think you have time to cross once the lights start flashing and that bells start ringing, you should never chance it. Trains are faster than you think, and there’s a reason the warnings are triggered when they are.
- Pay attention. When approaching a railroad crossing, never assume that the intersection is clear. You need to look both ways, listen for the clickety-clacks of an approaching engine, or any signs that a train may be in the vicinity before you cross.
- Know when to flee. If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, get everyone out immediately. If there is no train in sight, stand far away from the tracks and call 911 or the emergency number posted near the crossing. If a train is approaching, exit your car as quickly as possible and run at an angle toward the oncoming train but away from the tracks. If you run away from the train, shrapnel from the collision can fly at straight at you. When you’re behind the collision, you have a lesser chance of being hit by debris.
- Recognize private property. Despite what you may think, train tracks are private property. Trespassing on the tracks is not only illegal, but also extremely dangerous—if a car can’t outrun a train, what hope does a pedestrian have? As a pedestrian, stay off the tracks and if you must cross, make sure you do so quickly while following the same safety rules as motorists (look, listen, and pay attention).
- Know whom to call. Although 25% of all train collisions occur when a driver collides into the side of a train, and despite that trains always have the right of way, you may still be eligible for injury compensation. If your vehicle stalls on the tracks or suffers another mechanical failure, or if the warning lights and barriers are not functional at a railroad crossing, you may have a legitimate claim. Attorney Steve Lee is here to help. With over 25 years’ worth of experience with car accident and wrongful death claims, Steve Lee has the resources to help you build a strong case. Contact us today to set up your FREE consultation to review your legal options and rights.