Think You Can Outrun a Train? You're Wrong. Stop. Trains Can't.

In 2018 alone, 270 people were killed at train crossings. Of those, 99 people died after the driver went around lowered crossing gate arms — a 10-year high.

In fact, from 2014–2018, 1,538 drivers went around a lowered gate and were struck by a train - 14 percent of all crashes. These crashes were caused by risky driving, which means the deaths could have been avoided.

If you try to race with a train, you will lose every time. People are making impatient and risky choices, and they are paying with their lives. Most of these deaths are preventable. Whether or not you see railroad crossing signs, you should always be careful and obey the crossing laws.

By law, trains always have the right of way because of their size. A train cannot swerve, stop quickly, or change directions to avoid a crash. There are 130,000 public railroad crossings in the United States, and about 54 percent are “active” crossings that include warning devices such as gates, bells, or flashing lights to alert drivers of an approaching train. Still, 46 percent are “passive” crossings, meaning only signs and markings exist.

While warnings do improve safety at railroad crossings, they do not prevent 100-percent of crashes. About 60% of all crashes at train crossings happen where active warnings are present.

People are busy, in a hurry, and waiting for a train seems like an inconvenience, but showing caution at these railroad crossings and stopping when necessary just may save your life. No delay is worth losing your life. If a train is coming, the driver only has one safe choice — to stop.

Follow these tips to stay safe when crossing a railroad:

  • When nearing a railroad crossing, slow down, look, and listen for a train on the tracks, especially at “passive” crossings.
  • Look carefully in both directions before crossing the tracks—even during the day. 67% of railroad crossing crashes happen in good weather.
  • Do not try to guess when a train is coming. Trains can come from either direction at any time.
  • Never race a train. It is easy to misjudge a train’s speed and distance from the crossing. A train traveling at 55 miles per hour takes a mile to stop — the length of 18 football fields or more—after applying the emergency brakes.
  • Before entering a railroad crossing, check that there is enough room on the other side of the tracks for your car to cross completely and safely. Know that you may need to cross multiple sets of tracks at some crossings.
  • Never stop on the railroad tracks. Keep moving once you have entered the crossing, and to avoid stalling, never shift gears on the tracks.
  • If your vehicle stops on a railroad track, quickly move away from the track and your vehicle at a 45-degree angle. Call the number on the Emergency Notification System sign, or, if the sign is not visible to you, dial 911 for help.
  • Refrain from taking senior pictures on the railroad tracks. It’s dangerous, and also against the law.

Remember: The right choice at train crossings could save your life. Stop. Trains Can’t.

These tips provided by The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to remind drivers about the lifesaving importance of railroad safety.

For more information, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov, or contact Four Corners Health Department at (877) 337-3573 or info@fourcorners.ne.gov.