Railroad Crossing Misconceptions & Reality

Railroad crossing accidents are
anomalies and not something to be
concerned about
Annually, there are about 200 deaths and 1,000 injuries from crossing collisions—far greater than for commercial airlines in a typical year. There are more than 200,000 crossings in the U.S. with over 129,000 involving public roads
When there are railroad crossing accidents, it's because motorists did something illegal and/or foolish
Railroad crossing accidents occur for a variety of reasons. These include: lack of adequate protection devices, deficient crossing conditions, improper train operations, and inappropriate driving.
Crossing gates are not effective in reducing train/car accidents at railroad crossings
Crossing gates are 3-4 times safer than passive warning devices such as crossbucks and stop signs. The effectiveness of gates has been confirmed by research studies and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
You can always see and/or hear a train when approaching a railroad crossing
Sight obstructions (trees, buildings, parked trains, vegetation, etc.) and poor track and/or road design can retard the view of oncoming trains. Also, train engineers may fail to sound the engine’s horn or whistle in adequate time.
Railroads are precluded from determining the need for, and the funding of, safety devices at railroad crossings
There are public programs to determine safety needs at railroad crossings and to fund the installation of safety devices, but the railroads can also perform these tasks, as long as they comply with established engineering standards.


  1. Lack of protection devices to warn of trains presence at passive crossings

  2. Sight obstructions

  3. Physical layout of crossing

  4. Roadway alignment with tracks

  5. Automated safety equipment malfunctions

  6. Railroad not following safety procedures

  7. No uniformity for crossing protection devices

  8. Drivers behavior to proceed without extra caution “always expect a train”

(Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws, The Ohio Department of Public Safety)

  1. Expect a train on any track at any time. Most trains do not travel on a regular schedule.

  2. Don’t get trapped on a grade crossing. Never drive onto a grade crossing until you are sure you can clear the tracks. Once you have started to cross the tracks, keep going, especially if you see a train approaching.

  3. Never drive around the gate. If the gates are down, stop and stay in place.

  4. Watch out for a second train. When you are at a multiple-track crossing, do not proceed until you are sure that no other train is coming on another track, especially from the opposite direction.

  5. If you are stuck on the track and a train is approaching, unfasten your safety belt, get out of the vehicle and off the tracks. Run a safe distance from the track in the direction of the train, in order to avoid flying debris.

  6. Watch for vehicles that must stop at crossings.

  7. Never race a train.

  8. Don’t misjudge the train’s speed and distance. Because of the large size of the train, it appears to be moving much slower than it actually is. Trains cannot stop quickly.

  9. Be especially alert at night for railroad-crossing warning signs. Be sure you can stop within the distance illuminated by your headlights, remembering that most railroad cars are not equipped with reflectorized tape as are large trucks, and

  10. Be especially careful and reduce speed for obstructions that block your view.

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