Preventing railroad collisions

Koon’s Watch

In 2019 alone, 126 people were killed in vehicles at railroad crossings, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration. Of the fatal collisions that year, 94 occurred after the driver went around lowered crossing gate arms, which is 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.

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. NHTSA reports 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 (NHTSA).

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. No delay is worth losing your life, so if a train is coming, the driver only has one safe option — to stop.

We have several active railroad crossings in Lexington County. Be aware and avoid distractions while traveling through these areas. When approaching a railroad crossing, slow down, look, and listen for a train on the tracks, especially at “passive” crossings.

Remember: The right choice at railroad crossings could save your life.

Stop. Trains Can’t.