June Marks Rail Crossing Safety Awareness Month
MN Among Top 15 States with Most Highway-Rail Crossing Incidents
June is Rail Crossing Safety Awareness month and the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Minnesota Operation Lifesaver remind citizens about the importance of safety around trains.
“Minnesota ranks in the top 15 states with the most highway-rail grade crossing incidents,” said Sheryl Cummings, Minnesota Operation Lifesaver executive director. “People need to make safer decisions around tracks and trains so we can reduce fatalities and injuries.”
Most crossing accidents occur because motorists and pedestrians ignore warning signs, signals or safety gates.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2014, 59 vehicles were involved in incidents with trains, resulting in 10 fatalities in the state.
In 2013, there were 53 incidents, resulting in six fatalities.
There were eight injuries and fatalities of people trespassing on railroad property in 2014, compared to 10 in 2013.
MnDOT is spending $6.5 million in state and federal funding this year for rail grade crossing safety to reduce train-related incidents with vehicles and pedestrians. Gov.
Dayton’s 2015 transportation bill includes an additional $5 million over the next two years for rail grade crossing safety measures.
“Installing new crossing signals and gates and replacing older equipment help make each crossing safer,” said Bill Gardner, MnDOT’s Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations director. “But it’s up to motorists and pedestrians to obey the law and not drive around gates or through lights.”
Minnesota Operation Lifesaver offers free education to community and civic groups including law enforcement, first responders and driver’s education programs.
MnDOT and Minnesota Operation Lifesaver offer these tips for drivers and pedestrians when crossing a track:
• Expect a train at any time. You can’t be sure when a train may appear at a crossing, even if it’s one you drive or walk across every day. Freight trains don’t travel on a regular schedule and the schedules for passenger trains can change. Always be alert, because trains can run any time of day or night, on any track, in any direction.
• Don’t be fooled, the train is closer and faster than you think. In the same way that airplanes can seem to move slowly, a train may seem farther away than it really is. It’s easy to misjudge a train’s speed and its distance, especially at night. Don’t take chances. If you see a train, just wait.
• Trains can’t stop quickly or swerve—be prepared to yield. After fully applying the brakes, a loaded freight train traveling 55 miles an hour takes a mile or more to stop. A light rail train takes 600 feet to stop, and an eight-car passenger train traveling 80 miles an hour needs about a mile to stop. Even if the engineer can see you, it’s too late to stop the train in time to prevent a collision.
• Stop and wait when gates are down or lights are flashing. If the gates are down, the road is closed and you must stop and wait. That’s the law. Continue across after the gates go up and the red lights stop flashing,
• Don’t trespass on foot. Tracks and the property alongside them are private property. Stay off railroad cars and tracks. It’s illegal and, too often, it’s deadly.
• Don’t get trapped on the tracks. Never drive onto a railroad crossing until you’re sure you can clear the tracks on the other side without stopping. If your car stalls or is trapped on the tracks, get everyone out right away, even if you don’t see a train coming. Move quickly away from the tracks. If a train is coming, move in its direction as you move away from the tracks. If you run the same direction the train is going, you could be injured by flying debris when the train hits your car.
For more information, go to MnDOT’s rail safety web page or Minnesota Operation Lifesaver’s website.