According to federal statistics, Texas can claim the tragic distinction of having the most railroad crossing collisions than any other state in the country. What makes this even more tragic is the fact that these horrific accidents can almost always be prevented.
The Federal Railroad Administration reports that of the 2,287 U.S. railroad grade crossing collisions in 2014, 287 were in Texas; more than double that in the second highest state, Illinois. Those Texas incidents resulted in 103 injuries and 20 deaths.
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand what happens when a speeding train hits a vehicle on the tracks. As Operation Lifesaver, a national rail safety advocacy group puts it:
The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car. We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
If you find yourself approaching a railroad crossing, whether it has a functioning crossing signal or not, keep in mind these additional facts and safety tips from Operation Lifesaver:
- Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.
- All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it’s illegal trespass and highly dangerous.
- By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks it’s too late. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile—the length of 18 football fields—to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
- Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.
- A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three-foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.
- Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
- Today’s trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale “clackety-clack.” Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster, than you think.
- Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
- Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.
Sometimes, however, even the most cautious driver can find themselves in a devastating railroad crossing accident through no fault of their own. If the railroad company failed to erect or maintain signals or otherwise kept the property at or around a railway crossing in a manner that made it unreasonably dangerous, it could be held liable for any injuries or damages sustained by a driver or pedestrian.
At Greening Law, P.C. in Dallas, personal injury lawyer Robert Greening aggressively fights for the rights of injury victims across Texas, including those injured at railroad crossings. If you or a loved one has been injured, please give us a call at (972) 934-8900 or fill out our online form to arrange for your free initial consultation.