Georgia Railroad Crossing Accidents
November 30, 2020
As of the end of March 2019, all school bus drivers in Georgia may need to be vetted twice per year by public safety officials. Georgia lawmakers recently passed a bus driver safety bill in the state Senate and House. The Georgia Senate passed the bill unanimously on March 26. The bill would... continue reading
America’s railroads are experiencing record levels of traffic, with transportation of both freight and of passengers on the rise. A major consequence of this demand is an increased potential for accidents, particularly at railroad crossings.The accidents that occur at railroad crossings located throughout the United States are extremely serious and frequently result in catastrophic injuries or fatalities. In addition to the injuries suffered by motorists and their passengers, such accidents can result in train derailments and in the release of hazardous materials into the environment. The U.S. railroad system consists of approximately 750 railroads running on 140,000 miles of track. Every day, trains travel across more than 212,000 highway-rail grade crossings. A grade crossing is a site where a public highway, road, street or private roadway crosses railroad tracks at the same level as the street. There are also 38,000 locations nationwide where the railroad tracks and roadways cross at different levels.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were 2,096 collisions at public and private highway-rail grade crossings in 2013, leaving 231 people dead and 972 people injured.
Increased Traffic = Increased AccidentsPreliminary numbers for 2014 show an increase in the number of collisions (2,280) and the number of deaths (267) with 832 people injured. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle.
Causes of Railroad Crossing AccidentsThere are countless reasons why railroad crossing accidents occur. One reason is that motor vehicle drivers do not realize that trains cannot stop quickly. For example, a 150-car freight train traveling 50 miles per hour takes 8000 feet (or 1.5 miles) to stop. An 8-car passenger train traveling 79 miles per hour takes 6000 feet (or 1-1/8 miles) to stop. Of course, inattentive motor vehicle drivers are only one cause of railroad crossing accidents.
Improving Safety at Railway CrossingsSometimes, railroad companies are negligent by failing to provide adequate warning systems. All railroad crossing safety equipment must be properly maintained to ensure the safety of train passengers, drivers and pedestrians. If any of the railroad crossing signs, signals, lights or gates are not functioning adequately, they must be repaired immediately by the railroad company. Additionally, railroad companies may be held liable for improper maintenance, improper installation of federally-approved crossing equipment or improper care of such equipment.
In addition to knowing your legal rights when it comes to train accidents, you can avoid being involved in an accident by practicing caution at any train crossing.Trains are required by federal law to have headlights and loud horns, so whether or not the crossing is working properly, you should know a train is coming. Tips to ensure railroad crossing safety include:
- Never drive or walk around lowered gates or flashing red lights.
- Expect a train on any track at any time.
- Never try to race a train to the crossing.
- Do not get trapped on the tracks. Proceed only when you can clear the crossing without stopping.
- Get out of your vehicle if it stalls on a crossing. If a train is coming, quickly move away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is approaching.
- When crossing the railroad tracks on foot, always cross at the highway-rail grade crossing and obey all signs and signals.