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Car Accidents at Railroad Crossings

railroad crossing

The statistics are grim. Every year, about 2,100 North Americans are killed or injured at railroad crossings. With 14,000 miles of railroad track and 250,000 railroad crossings in the U.S., people cross these tracks more frequently than they may even realize.  

Alabama was among the top eight states nationwide with the most crossing collisions in 2018, according to federal statistics. Estimates are there are thousands of collisions at highway rail intersections, whether they involve a car or a pedestrian.

For example, in 2018, there were 2,214 collisions that led to 270 fatalities and 819 injuries. That number represents a drop in injuries but a slight increase in the number of collisions in the U.S. that year when compared to the year before.  Ninety-nine of those deaths occurred after the driver made the decision to go around a lowered crossing gate arm.

Over the last five years, from 2014 to 2018, there were 798 fatalities reported at railroad crossings involving motor vehicles.

According to the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a motorist is almost 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than one involving another vehicle.

J. Allan Brown, an accident attorney from Mobile, warns that trains, cars, and pedestrians do not mix. An accident or death at a railroad crossing is a preventable problem if you know the facts.

Fatal Accidents at Railroad Crossings

Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public education and awareness, emphasizes that every three hours in the U.S. a vehicle or pedestrian is hit by a train.

You’ve probably witnessed a scenario where in a split-second, a driver will decide to try and outrun a train by going around a flashing barricade.

Trains move faster than you think and take longer than a motor vehicle to stop after applying the brakes.

Operation Lifesaver reports a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile to stop once the emergency brakes are applied.  That is the distance of 18 football fields.

And with the average locomotive weighing about 400,000 pounds, the train has a clear advantage when it collides with a 5,000 pound passenger car.

Someone on foot may use railroad tracks as a recreational path or a shortcut, often with tragic consequences not appreciating how wide the train is beyond the tracks.

At a railroad crossing, a flashing red light indicates a train is approaching. That could mean from either direction. Do not attempt to cross the tracks until the light has stopped flashing, because a second train may be right behind the first one. Remember, the train has the right of way – 100% of the time.

Avoid Fatal Railroad Crossing Accidents

  • Wait for a train to pass before you proceed across the tracks
  • Stay back from a railroad grade crossing more than 15 feet
  • Never drive around lowered gates
  • Do not walk on the railroad tracks
  • Make sure you can clear the tracks before driving across
  • If your vehicle stalls, get out and away from the tracks, even if no train is coming, if a train is coming, run at a 45 degree angle to avoid flying debris from the collision
  • Cross train tracks on foot at a designated crossing location
  • Always expect that a train is coming
  • Pedestrians need to be aware that a train overhangs the tracks by at least three feet in both directions
  • Do not hunt, fish or bungee jump from a railroad trestle
  • No texting, headphones or any other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train

It is important to understand that all train tracks are private property belonging to the railroad company. There should be a “No Trespassing” sign in the area where any pedestrian may have access. It is not only dangerous, but illegal to trespass on the railroad property.

Injured in a Railroad Crossing Accident in Alabama? Call Our Experienced Attorney for Legal Help

In order to establish liability, we must prove the railroad company was negligent in some way. Let’s discuss the specifics of your case.  If you have been injured at a railroad crossing, J. Allan Brown would like to offer you a consultation to review your case. Protect your rights and the rights of your loved ones. Call 251-220-3199.

J. Allan Brown, LLC
Law Office of J. Allan Brown, LLC, is located in Mobile, AL and serves clients in and around Mobile, Bucks, Satsuma, Eight Mile, Semmes, Spanish Fort, Citronelle, Theodore, Saraland, Montrose, Irvington, Saint Elmo, Wilmer, Point Clear, Grand Bay, Chunchula, Fairhope, Creola, Bayou La Batre, Axis, Coden, Bay Minette, Silverhill, Baldwin County and Mobile County.
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