RRX: The Most Dangerous Railroad/Highway Grade Crossings

Five people died at this crossing in Evergreen Alabama.

Deadly Crossings: Five people have died at this crossing in Evergreen Alabama. Note the stop sign beyond the tracks . . .

Danger on the Tracks

Trucks and trains do not mix well. Collisions at crossings are never good for the truck or the train. Collisions with a truck hauling hazmat can be outright tragic.

Yet almost everyday a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) collides with a train.

The Federal Rail Administration released a list of the 15 most dangerous crossings, out of the 200,000 crossings it oversees. At each of these crossings, multiple collisions and/or incidents have occurred in recent years.

The biggest issue seems to be a crossing near or at an intersection. A vehicle may have to stop for traffic and become trapped on or partially over the tracks at some of these crossings. A larger vehicle like a truck then becomes hard to miss.

Fatalities and injuries have decreased over the years and now average about 250 killed and about 1,000 injured each year — about a third of the number in the early 1980s. The majority of these crashes occur within 25 miles of a person’s home. Another statistic: a person is 20 times more likely to be killed in a crash with a train than in a collision with another vehicle.

Distracted Driving

In the majority of truck-train crashes I’m familiar with, the truck driver was distracted before the crash: talking on a CB, talking to a child riding along, distracted by work going on in a construction zone, etc.

I have personally road tested thousands of people and based on my observations, over half of drivers do not do traffic checks before or at rail crossings. Perhaps we’ve become accustomed to warning lights and gates doing our driving for us.

Not every crossing has active warning systems in place. Some crossings are even obscured or the signs can be difficult to see. Drivers need to be reminded to look for the tracks. Then look for the train.

Highway-grade crossing are unmarked on private roads, with tragic results.

Quiet Zones are crossings where the routine sounding of the train horn has been eliminated. The horn is only activated by the engineer for safety reasons.

Every Railroad/Highway Grade Crossing should be considered dangerous . . .

Thank you for reading this. Thanks also to the LabelMaster blog DG Digest for pointing out the FRA list.

More . . . Watch out! Highway Grade (RRX) Crossings

John Taratuta is a Risk Engineer (989) 474-9599

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