Look Every Way Every Day

Approximately every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States, and a collision at a rail crossing is more likely to be fatal than a collision elsewhere.

Not only can failure to stop at a railroad crossing be deadly, it is illegal. When your driving involves crossing over railroad tracks, railway safety professionals warn that we should always EXPECT a train and when a train is coming, we only have one choice and that is to STOP!

A freight train traveling at 55 mph takes a mile (the length of 18 football fields or more) to come to a stop even with the emergency brake applied. Here are some railroad safety guidelines to keep you safe at railroad crossings:

  • Expect a train on the track at any time of the day or night
  • Never stop on the tracks; if the lights begin the flash while you are crossing, continue across the tracks
  • Never drive around the gates; wait until the gates are raised, the lights stop flashing and it is clear in both directions to cross
  • If there are more than one set of tracks, watch out for additional trains
  • Never race a train
  • Watch for vehicles that are required to stop at railroad crossings
  • Use extra caution at night or during bad weather
  • If your vehicle ever stalls on the tracks, get out immediately

If you need to report an incident, a stopped vehicle or issues with a gate, lights and/or bells not working, the U.S. Department of Transportation posts the crossing identification number on the sign pole along with an emergency phone number.

— Lisa Robinson is a senior program manager with the National Safety Council