If you regularly watch TV, listen to the radio or even subscribe to popular podcasts, you have likely heard at least one public service announcement about an issue that most of us rarely think about: accidents at railroad crossings. The reason for these PSAs is a national campaign going on throughout the month of October known as “Stop. Trains Can’t.” It is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in partnership with traffic safety advocacy groups around the country.
The main message of the campaign is simple but powerful, and can be summed up with the following fact: Even if a train conductor sees you on the train tracks and begins to brake, it can take more than a mile for a train to come to a complete stop. Therefore, the responsibility has to be on drivers and pedestrians to ensure their own safety by staying out of the way of oncoming trains.
One of the things that makes railroad crossings so dangerous is that the timing of train traffic is difficult to predict. At many crossings, trains come infrequently enough that drivers are lulled into a false sense of security. And even when crossings have signals and crossing arms, drivers sometimes ignore them, which can be a fatal mistake.
In the past five years, nearly 800 people in America have been killed while trying to cross train tracks. In nearly three quarters of those cases, the driver disregarded the warning signs that a train was approaching.
If you live or work near train tracks and regularly drive over them, please take this month’s safety message to heart. While train-vs-car accidents are not the most common hazard Texas drivers face, they are a serious threat.