In order for a freight train to stop, it may take up to a mile or more. That is 18 football fields of distance. Light trains may require about 600 feet or 2 football fields of distance to stop.
In 2021 there were more than 1,600 collisions between vehicles and freight and commuter trains (NHTSA, 2022).
Below outlines steps to take to navigate crossing railroad tracks:
- Before entering a railroad crossing, stop. Look both ways and listen. Remember that trains always have the right of way;
- Do not stop on the tracks. Once you enter the crossing, keep moving. Make sure you have ample room to get across;
- Stop 15 feet away from flashing red lights, lowered gates, a signaling flagman or a stop sign;
- Never drive around a lowering gate or ignore signals;
- After a train passes, wait for the gates to fully raise and all of the lights to stop flashing before crossing;
- Do not assume there is only one train coming from a single direction.
If your car stalls on a track, quickly get everyone out, even if you don't see a train coming. Run away from the tracks and your car to avoid being hit by flying debris. Call the number on the blue emergency notification system sign. If the sign is not visible to you, call 911.
Rules for navigating railroad crossings vary when it comes to transit train crossing. Light or passenger train crossings can be located in several different areas, including intersections and public and private driveways. When making your way through these types of crossings, keep the above in mind, but also remember:
- Transit trains that operate in mixed traffic, where the roadway is shared with all types of road users (pedestrians, automobiles, cyclists, etc.), the trains do not have the right-of-way over other roadway users at crossings and intersections;
- Transit trains are usually controlled with the same devices used by general traffic.
- If the light or passenger train operates within a separate traveled way or along a street or railroad where vehicles have limited access and cross at designated grade crossing locations only, they usually have the right-of-way over other roadway users;
- See steps above before crossing.
- Vehicles and other traffic are prohibited from light or passenger train crossings when a crossing is separated by something like a bridge or underpass, or protected by a fence or traffic barrier and there are no traffic control devices.
Here is an explanation of some of the signs and markings you may observe when coming to a railroad crossing (Operation Lifesaver, 2022):
Remember that trains, no matter what size, take longer to stop. Always be vigilant when coming up to and through a crossing, no matter if it is a freight, light or passenger train crossing.