Avoiding collisions at railroad crossings

For those who develop traffic safety programs for the public, one of the challenges they face is planning for avoiding accidents at railroad crossings.

In 2010, more that 2000 accidents occurred at railroad crossing resulting in 261 fatalities. A recent posting on the Council Bluffs, Iowa, blog of InjuryBoard.com by attorney Craig Kelley of Dunham, Neb., discusses ways for the public to avoid collisions at railroad crossings.

Kelley says that simple cautions by drivers and pedestrians can prevent rail crossing accidents. In addition to safety lights and devices, crossing guards and other warning signals, among the “tips” Kelley posts are the following:

• Understand that trains cannot stop quickly. A freight train moving at 55 miles per hour might need up to a full mile before it can come to a complete stop.
• In the event a vehicle stalls on the tracks and a train is coming, drivers should immediately abandon the vehicle and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction the train is coming. Moving in this direction minimizes the chance of injury from debris.
• At crossings where there are multiple tracks, pedestrians and drivers should be sure to watch for trains on all tracks and from both directions.
• Staying alert at railroad crossings is most important. This means drivers and pedestrians should not be texting, using headphones, or having other distractions that would make it difficult to hear an approaching train.