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Motorists Must Always Be on the Lookout for Trains - II

Last time, our blog examined statistics from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security that painted a rather grim picture of what happens when trains and motor vehicles collide.

In today’s post, we’ll continue with this discussion, exploring why these types of accidents occur and what motorists can do to stay safe.

The causes of train accidents

According to state officials, most train accidents occur because motorists are either negligent or impatient. For the former, this means they see the posted railroad crossing signs yet openly disregard any risk, traversing the tracks without any attempt whatsoever to stop, look or listen. As for the latter, this means they are often unwilling to wait the 30 seconds to five minutes it takes for a train to cross through an intersection and instead try to beat it.

The ways to avoid train accidents:

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, drivers can help prevent devastating and deadly train accidents by following just a few basic safety tips:

  • Always abide by posted warning signs, making sure to bring your vehicle to a complete stop (if required or safe to do so), and looking in both directions before proceeding. This means not abiding by train schedules as they can fluctuate wildly.
  • Avoid the temptation “to beat the train,” as this is not only illegal, but can also have disastrous consequences. Experts indicate that while it may seem as if an oncoming train is moving slowly, this is often just an optical illusion.
  • Avoid the temptation to “beat the gates,” meaning avoid the temptation to drive around closed crossing gates and stay put until the all clear is sounded. To do otherwise is not only exceedingly dangerous, but also a violation of the state’s vehicle traffic laws.

If traffic is heavy, don’t bring your vehicle to a stop on the railroad tracks. Instead, wait until you have enough room to cross to the other side safely, well ahead of the tracks. In the event the warning lights activate while you are on the track, state officials advise motorists to keep going as the crossing gates won’t lock them in and to never go in reverse.

  • Always keep an eye out for vehicles required by law to stop at all railroad crossings (school buses, trucks carrying hazardous materials, etc.) and do not pass them at crossings.
  • Always look for trains coming in both directions when two or more sets of tracks are present.

If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a train accident attributable to illegal or reckless behavior on the part of another, consider speaking with an experienced and dedicated legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about the law and your options going forward.

Source: Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, “Tennessee comprehensive driver license manual,” Accessed Oct. 14, 2014

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