Railroad Crossing Safety Tips

Driving presents you with many dangers — and some of them come clearly marked.

Although a railroad crossing may seem simple enough to pass safely, it’s not as simple as driving over the tracks. Just consider the statistics. Between 2014 and 2018, nearly 800 people died in motor vehicle accidents at railroad crossings, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Things have certainly gotten better over time, as railroad crossing signals and lights have alerted drivers to potential danger ahead. As such, the number of deaths has fallen — compare the 2014-2018 stats to the year 1976, in which 1,115 people died on the tracks.

Still, we have work to bring that number down to zero in 2020 and beyond. Here’s how to drive defensively so that you can traverse every track with confidence and safety.

1. Slow Down

Firstly, you should slow down when approaching a railroad grade crossing. You must look around for clues that a train is on its way.

Of course, you have built-in signals at the crossing. Most tracks come with lights and perhaps a bell to let you know that you have to stop. Others will have barriers that come down and block you from driving over the tracks, too.

Long before you reach the railroad crossing, though, you should pay attention to context clues.

For instance, cars might be slowing down or stopping ahead. They could see the signals before you — if you’re paying attention, you can stop well in advance of tailgating them, hitting them or getting too close to the tracks.

2. Hone Your Senses

Unblocking your senses will only make them stronger. And you’ll want to pay as much attention as possible when you approach train tracks.

Make it easier for yourself to focus on the potential dangers ahead. Shut off your radio so that you can hear any alarm bells. Do the same with your air-conditioner if the fan’s too loud.

Always have your prescription lenses if you need them while driving, too. You want to make sure you can heed every warning sign — and it starts by paying attention.

3. Stop and Listen at the Railroad Crossing

Before you make your way over the track, it couldn’t hurt to listen out of your window. It’s no secret that a speeding locomotive will make a lot of noise.

You might be thinking, “There are already railroad crossing lights and signals to do this job.” You’re right, but you also never know. A malfunction in these warning devices could put you in danger.

So, stop before you cross over railroad tracks. Stop the car and listen out of the window. Peer over the wheel to make sure the coast is clear to the left and the right.

If all is calm, then you have a green light to go over the tracks.

4. Stay Back When Necessary

Let’s say you’re paying attention to the road, so you stop as the railroad crossing gate comes down. The person behind you isn’t as alert and can’t stop quickly. They rear-end you as you brake and patiently wait.

What happens if your car gets pushed forward? This is why it’s a danger to you to linger too close to the tracks. Experts advise you to stop 15 feet away from the railroad crossing.

Most of the time, the railroad crossing will have a line marked to indicate where you should stop. Heed the warnings — they’re there for your safety.

5. Have Patience

None of us want to wait around for a massive locomotive to pass. You never know when a freight train will fly through town, either, since they’re not on fixed schedules.

Regardless of the situation, though, you need to stop as soon as the rail crossing lights glow. Never try to maneuver around the gates as they close, either. An attempt to bypass the train could cost you your life.

On that note, wait until the gates raise entirely before you cross over the tracks. Even if the coast seems clear, operate with an abundance of caution. It’s not worth it to shave those few seconds off of your travel time.

6. Look Both Ways

Crossing train tracks is much like crossing the street — danger can come at you from both sides.

Sometimes, people make the mistake of thinking trains will only travel in one direction. This incorrect notion could cost someone their life if they only look to one side before crossing.

So, as you perform your checks to make sure no trains are ahead, look both ways. Once the coast is clear, you can go.

7. Ditch Your Car If Necessary

Even the most skilled drivers make mistakes.

Perhaps you drive a manual vehicle, and your vehicles stalls while crossing over railroad tracks. Don’t linger in your car while trying to get it to restart.

If you’re stuck, get out of the car and move far from the vehicle. You need to be at a safe distance in case the train strikes your car — debris will fly everywhere.

Once you step far enough away, grab your phone and call 911 and request help in moving your car.

The Best Railroad Crossing Safety Tips For Drivers? Diligence

It’s easy to get complacent on the road. Over time, you might skip your steps and cruise over a railroad crossing. But such a method could put you and your passengers in danger.

So, keep everyone safe with the defensive driving skills you need at the tracks and beyond. We can help — check out our courses and contact us today if you think our lessons could help you on the road.