September 6-27, 2021 – Rail Grade Crossing Campaign

You can’t beat a train on the Tracks: Stop. trains can’t

Washington County, OH — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are teaming up once again for the Stop. Trains Can’t. railroad safety campaign. Beginning October 5, 2020, NHTSA, FRA and FTA will work together to help stop drivers in their tracks when they approach a railroad crossing.

In 2019 alone, 126 people were killed in vehicles at railroad crossings, according to data from FRA. Of the fatal collisions that year, 94 occurred after the driver went around lowered crossing gate arms — a 10-year high. In fact, from 2015-2019, there were 1,589 drivers who drove around a lowered gate and were struck by a train, accounting for 15% of all collisions. These crashes were caused by risky driving behaviors and poor decision-making, which means the incidents and deaths could have been prevented.

“Railroad crossings need to be treated with caution and respect, because the train that barrels down that track won’t be able to stop in an emergency,” said Sheriff Mincks. “People make rushed and risky choices, or they think they can play games with the trains. Oftentimes, these poor choices result in the death of the vehicle driver, and most of these deaths are 100% preventable. Whether or not you see railroad crossing signage, you should always use caution and obey the crossing laws.”

By law, trains always have the right of way because of their sheer size: A train cannot swerve, stop quickly, or change direction to avert a collision. Avoiding a collision with a train is always the responsibility of the driver. There are 130,200 public railroad crossings in the United States, and roughly 55% are “active” crossings that include warning devices such as gates, bells, or flashing lights to alert drivers of an approaching train. But 45% are “passive” crossings, meaning only signs and markings are present.

While warning devices do improve safety at railroad crossings, they do not prevent 100% of collisions. Approximately 60% of all collisions at railroad crossings occur where active warning devices are present.

“We know people are busy and impatient, and waiting for a train seems like an inconvenience, but showing caution at these railroad crossings and stopping when necessary just may save your life,” said Sheriff Mincks. “No delay is worth losing your life, so if a train is coming, the driver only has one safe option — to stop.”

Follow these tips to stay safe when crossing a railroad:

  • When approaching a railroad crossing, slow down, look, and listen for a train on the tracks, especially at “passive” crossings.
  • Look carefully in both directions before crossing a railroad track — even during the day. Sixty-seven percent of railroad crossing collisions occur in clear weather conditions.
  • Do not rely on past experiences to guess when a train is coming. Trains can come from either direction at any time.
  • Never race a train. It is easy to misjudge a train’s speed and distance from the crossing. A train traveling at 55 miles per hour takes a mile to stop — the length of 18 football fields or more — after applying the emergency brakes.
  • Before entering a railroad crossing, check that there is enough room on the other side of the tracks for your vehicle to cross completely and safely. Be aware that you may need to cross multiple sets of tracks at some railroad crossings.
  • Never stop on the railroad tracks. Keep moving once you have entered the crossing, and to avoid stalling, never shift gears on the tracks.
  • If your vehicle stalls on a railroad track, quickly move away from the track and your vehicle at a 45-degree angle. Call the number on the Emergency Notification System sign, or, if the sign is not visible to you, dial 911 for help.

Remember: The right choice at railroad crossings could save your life. Stop. Trains Can’t.