The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Fleet Safety Tip of the Week

September 28, 2011

This week law enforcement investigators released a report summarizing their probe of the July 11 fatal collision involving a commercial truck and an Amtrak passenger train in North Berwick, Maine. The report's findings underscore the dangers of distracted driving and the extra precaution necessary when drivers approach a railway crossing.

The truck, hauling a load of trash, skidded more than 200 feet before the fiery collision killed truck driver Peter Barnum and injured several train passengers, according to the report. An examination of phone records revealed that just before the collision Barnum took a five-minute phone call from his boss. Investigators also concluded that the truck was traveling 20 mph faster than the speed limit. 

Here are some railway safety tips from Operation Lifesaver, a group dedicated to educating the public about rail safety.

  • Trains and cars don't mix. Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
  • The train you see is closer and faster moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
  • Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That's 18 football fields.
  • Never drive around lowered gates — it's illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
  • Do not get trapped on the tracks. Proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
  • If your vehicle ever stalls on a track with a train coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
  • At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
  • When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping. Remember it isn't safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
  • ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN. Freight trains do not follow set schedules.
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