In 2020, there were over 1,900 vehicle-train collisions and nearly 200 fatalities at highway-rail grade crossings in the U.S., according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Approximately 65% of highway-rail grade collisions in 2020 occurred in 15 states. The top five states that experienced such collisions include Texas with 191 crashes, followed by California (150), Georgia (103), Illinois (98), and Indiana (93).
These tragedies are preventable, provided motorists follow the correct safety precautions.
For example, although highway-rail crossing incidents and fatalities have actually declined significantly for decades, the number of drivers going around lowered gates has increased in recent years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Drivers need to be reminded that it is never acceptable to go around a lowered gate as an unseen train may be just around the bend. Moreover, trains can take a mile or more to come to a full stop.
Now is a good time for fleet operators to remind drivers of best practices when it comes to navigating freight and commuter train crossings. NHTSA recommends the following:
- Stop, listen, and look in both directions. Keep in mind that trains always have the right of way.
- Make sure you have room to get across. Once you begin crossing, keep moving.
- Always stop 15 feet away from flashing red lights, lowered gates, a signaling flagman, or a stop sign.
- Never ignore signals or try to drive around a lowering gate.
- Before you begin to cross, always wait for gates to fully rise and for all lights to stop flashing.
- Don't assume there is only one train coming from a single direction. There may be more.
- In the event your car stalls on the rail track, get out — even if no train is visible. Get away from the tracks and your car as quickly as possible. When you are in a safe place, call the number on the blue Emergency Notification System sign or call 911.