Stop and wait
Stop and wait
The most obvious and important part of taking caution near a railroad crossing is that you stop and wait at the crossing if the lights start to flash rather than attempting to beat the train and/or the closing gates over the tracks. The risk is simply not worth it. It is extremely unlikely that you or anyone else in your vehicle survive if you are struck by an oncoming locomotive. Even if the train has applied its emergency brakes, it will likely not be able to stop or even slow down enough in time to spare your life.
Here are a few statistics regarding trains, their speeds and the force of their impacts:
- A train can take over one mile to come to a stop when it applies its emergency brakes as hard as it can. That is equivalent to just under twenty football fields. So, by the time a conductor sees you it is already too late.
- Even if a train has slowed considerably, its impact will still very likely be fatal. Most trains weigh around half a million pounds, give or take several tons. If trains travel at an average speed of sixty miles per hour and the conductor is able to see you a half mile away they might be able to slow the train to thirty or twenty five miles per hour. Imagine being struck by a half million pounds of force traveling twenty-five miles per hour or more.
- In 2021, 11% of all accidents where a train struck a vehicle were fatal. Another 32% resulted in injuries. In the majority of these incidents the vehicle was totaled. These statistics also do not discount incidents where people fled their vehicle prior to the train strike. Thus, the chance of injury or death is higher than these statistics reflect.
As we mentioned, it is critical that you pay attention when you are approaching a railroad crossing just in case the lights start to flash signaling an oncoming train. Always stop and wait until the flashing ceases. However, you also should never be closer than fifteen feet away from the tracks when there is any indication that there is a train approaching. If you are ever in a situation where you get caught on the tracks after the gates have closed, drive through the gate. Having to pay the ticket, the cost of replacement for the gate and the cost of repairs for your car is better than losing your life or being seriously injured. Plus, even if you escape unharmed, your car will be totaled which insurance will surely not cover a dime of.
Railroad crossings are no joke when you are driving. Over two thousand cars were struck by trains in 2021 due to negligent drivers. Many of them lost their lives or were injured. All almost all of them had their vehicles totaled. You must always stay focused and pay very close attention when approaching a railroad crossing in your vehicle. Once the lights start flashing it is time to stop because the gates will come down shortly after that which will obviously be followed by the train crossing.