Last month the Federal Railroad Administration, working together with the states, developed model state legislation to help improve the safety at highway-rail grade crossings. The model legislation is designed to assist states in the development of bills aimed at improving the safety of existing highway-railroad crossings without gates or barriers. These crossings are particularly susceptible to dangers resulting from obstructions blocking the view of motorists to oncoming trains. The Federal Railroad Administration noted that their accident report statistics show that between 2001 and 2005, there were 689 collisions at railroad – roadway crossings with sight obstructions, which resulted in 242 injuries and 87 fatalities.
According to FRA’s accident statistics at all crossings, there were 1,817 highway-rail incidents last year alone, resulting in 222 fatal crossing accidents and 245 total fatalities.
The FRA also noted that highway-rail and trespassing incidents account for 95.46% of all fatalities, with highway-rail incidents representing 17.73% of all reported events.
While the model legislation is geared toward crossings without gates or barriers, as noted by the above statistics, even crossings equipped with guard rails and flashing lights often result in injuries or death.
Trains are required to approach crossings with their headlights on and their horns sounding. However, drivers who have the windows closed, radio volume turned up, air conditioning on, or who are distracted by cell phones or other distractions, simply may not be able to hear oncoming trains. Additionally, the flashing lights might be difficult to see when sun glare or reflection impair a driver’s vision. It can be very difficult to accurately judge the speed of an oncoming train, since they appear to be moving more slowly than they actually are.
Please exercise extreme care when approaching any railroad crossing. The Padberg Corrigan firm has handled many railroad crossing related injuries and deaths. Should you or someone you know be injured or killed in a railroad related accident, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss your case.