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Trains and Railroads – Keep a Safe Distance

February 13, 2013

Railroads are required to give reasonable and timely warning of a train’s approach. Train operators must take reasonable care to prevent injury. This used to be nothing more than the train’s whistle and a set of crossed signs reading “Railroad Crossing”. Today, however, the safety devices can be as sophisticated as four-quadrant gates and vehicle presence detectors that signal the train if a vehicle is stuck on the tracks.

Vehicle operators who cross street-level (as opposed to elevated) tracks are required to exercise ordinary care and diligence to ascertain whether a train is approaching.

Since about 90,000 of the existing grade crossings have no flashing lights or gates to warn of a train’s approach, it is necessary that the vehicle driver can see down the tracks for trains and make correct decisions about crossing safely. This means the vehicle operator must be able to see an approaching train in time to stop; or if already stopped, see sufficient clear track so that the vehicle can accelerate and safely clear the crossing.

Attorneys representing train and railroad injury and death victims will consult the FHWA Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook, which describes various distances depending on the speed of the vehicle and of the train.


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