Letter to Editor
The Repository
April 9, 2004

Trains Break Ohio Law If They Sit At Crossings More Than Five Minutes

One issue the writer of “Irresponsible ATV drivers courted tragedy at railroad crossing” (April 5) mentioned was not addressed.

He wrote, “Other motorists and I sat for 30 minutes waiting for the train to clear the crossing.” This situation was dangerous and could’ve easily caused an accident or fatality. Motorists stopped for extended periods might encircle the gates. This is particularly dangerous, and always illegal, especially on multi-track crossings. People should never walk along tracks or operate recreation vehicles near tracks.

However, trains stopped or parked in the middle of or close to crossings pose safety dangers and inefficiencies to motorists and pedestrians. Trains that block crossings have killed many, especially at night; they are difficult to see, and freight cars do not have side reflectors.

It’s likely the gates and lights were flashing because the stopped train activated the circuit.

Ohio law addresses excessive blockage (ORC 5589.20-5589.24). No railroad car or locomotive is to block “a public street, road, or highway” for longer than five minutes. At the end of each five minutes, the railroad must remove the obstruction for at least three minutes to allow vehicles to pass. This applies to trains engaged in switching. Railroads can be cited for violations. Where a railroad abuses Ohio’s crossing-blockage laws, it can be fined up to $l,000---$5,000 if the crew abandons the train.

The crossing the letter described was another bad crossing. What if this had been an emergency vehicle responding to a call?

All railroad crossings are dangerous. Even those equipped with protection (gates) can and do malfunction. All crossings are federally mandated to be “failsafe.” Existing hazards at crossings, such as lack of gates, sight obstructions, blocked crossings, malfunctioning equipment, railroads not following safety procedures, no uniformity from state to state for crossing protection; in addition to driver error, kill hundreds in the United States each year.

Trustee, Angels on Track Foundation/Crossing To Safety



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