Railroad Crossing Safety

Railroad Crossing Safety

Railroad accidents happen more frequently than one would imagine. A train hits someone in the US every 115 minutes and nearly 2000 people are killed or injured each year in these accidents. The momentum of the train because of its weight and the speed at which they travel makes these accidents incredibly dangerous.

Distracted Driving

The majority of collisions between trains and motor vehicles occur when trains are traveling at less than 35 mph. In a quarter of all collisions, the train is already in the crossing when the car hits it. Nearly two-thirds of all collisions occur during the day and in crossings equipped with automatic warning devices, it is believed distracted driving must be the major cause.

Weight ratio between a train to a car is about 4,000 to 1; which is equivalent to the ratio of car to an aluminum can. A train traveling at 50 mph pulling 100 cars takes one mile to stop. Therefore in a collision between a train and a car likelihood of a fatality is 40 times higher than a collision between two motor vehicles.


When you are driving near a railroad crossing always follow these simple and life saving rules:

  • Remember that any time is train time.
  • Slow down when approaching a railroad crossing and look both ways—TWICE!
  • Never race a train to cross the tracks.
  • Never pass another vehicle within 100 feet of a railroad crossing.
  • Watch out for vehicles that MUST stop at railroad crossings, like school buses or trucks carrying hazardous materials.
  • When approaching a crossing, roll down your windows, turn off the radio or air conditioner, and listen for whistles or bells
  • Always yield to flashing lights, whistles, closing gates, cross bucks, or stop signs.
  • Never shift gears on the railroad crossing, downshift before you reach it.
  • If you must stop, keep a distance of 15 to 50 feet from the tracks. Since the tracks are four feet eight and a half inches wide, and the train hangs three feet past the rails on each side, be sure to leave enough space between your vehicle and the tracks.
  • Always cross the tracks at the designated railroad crossing or pedestrian crossing.
  • Only use the crossing if you can be sure your vehicle is high enough to completely clear the railroad crossing without stopping.
  • Don’t be fooled by the optical illusion presented by the train. It is always moving faster and is much closer than you think.

Stalled Vehicle

If your vehicle stalls on the tracks and you see a train approaching, get out of the vehicle immediately, move away from the crossing, and move towards the approaching train. This way you can avoid injury from flying debris. Call 911 immediately and inform police about the stalled vehicle. If you drive into the railroad crossing and the gate behind you comes down, keep driving, even if it means you break the crossing gate ahead of you. Never drive around a crossing gate that is down. If you suspect the gate is malfunctioning, call your local law enforcement or Railroad Company immediately.