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Safety Tips Around Trains and Railroad Tracks

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Published in train accident on August 15, 2016.

Trains are one of the oldest methods of transportation and shipping in America, but with the development of new transportation systems, we don’t have nearly as much experience or caution around them as we did in the past. Trains function much differently than other vehicles, and proper safety precautions must be taken around them to avoid serious injuries. Keep the following safety tips in mind when it comes to trains:

  • Train tracks are private property. Remember this if you are tempted to walk along train tracks or cross them. This is illegal and a form of trespassing.
  • Trains require a large distance to stop. If a train engineer sees an obstruction on the tracks ahead, it’s likely too late for them to stop in time to avoid a collision. Most trains traveling at an average cruising speed of 55 miles per hour require at least a full mile to come to a complete stop.
  • Trains are enormous and heavy. A freight train can weigh up to 6,000 tons, and the locomotive alone can weigh up to 200 tons. Compared to your average passenger vehicle, the weight difference alone should indicate what would happen if a train hit a vehicle on the tracks.
  • Trains always have the right of way. If you encounter a railroad crossing that begins to flash, indicating a train is approaching, don’t assume you can gun it and beat the train. Though it may be frustrating to wait for a long train to pass, the alternative is much worse.
  • Modern trains are quieter than you may expect. An approaching train is likely moving much faster than it appears.
  • Only cross tracks at designated areas. Always pay close attention to signals and signs at crossings.
  • Trains cannot swerve. Trains can only move where their rails take them. They cannot maneuver around obstructions or vehicles on the tracks ahead.
  • If your vehicle stalls or becomes stuck on train tracks, get everyone out of the vehicle as quickly as possible, even if the train isn’t immediately visible.
  • If you’re forced out of your vehicle and a crash is imminent, do not run in the same direction the train is traveling. When the train strikes the vehicle, debris will be thrown outward from the front of the train. If you must run to escape a collision, run at an angle in the direction the train came from to avoid flying debris.
  • If you’re waiting at a railroad crossing, don’t try to cross immediately after a train passes. Trains often travel in groups, and a second train may be right behind the first.
  • Never travel on foot on train bridges or through train tunnels. This may be tempting if no trains are present and crossing the bridge or passing through a tunnel would be a shortcut to your destination. However, should a train head your way, there simply isn’t enough clearance to avoid being hit. In a tunnel, there will only be an average of 14 inches between the train and the walls of the tunnel, and the train cars may have differing constructions, creating an even smaller gap. Bridges may have maintenance walkways, but they will not provide enough room to avoid being hit. If you’re on a bridge, you will either be hit by the train or have to jump from the bridge. Neither choice is promising.

The state of Georgia uses a modified comparative negligence law; if you are found 50% at fault or more, you cannot claim damages. If you are injured by a train due to a failure to heed warnings or exercise reasonable care or you were trespassing on private property, it is highly unlikely you will be able to obtain any compensation.

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