train speeding through railroad crossing

Railroad Crossing Safety: Stop, Look & Listen

It may seem easy to avoid a collision with a 200-ton locomotive, and yet a vehicle or pedestrian is hit by a train every three hours in the United States, according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit group that promotes railroad safety. Follow these tips and use extra caution the next time you find yourself at a railroad crossing.

railroad crossing signAlways Expect That A Train Is Coming

Trains always win: They always get the right of way, they don’t always follow set schedules, and they can move in any direction. Keep your wits about you and always expect that a train might be present and moving.

Stop, Look & Listen

Stay alert when crossing railroad tracks or standing close to a platform. Stop texting and remove your headphones any time you’re near the tracks.

With new technology, trains are quieter than ever, so lower your radio and listen closely as you approach a railroad crossing. Don’t rely on hearing a train horn to know if a train is coming; train operators do not always use their horn as a warning when approaching an intersection.

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Give Them Space

A train can extend more than three feet beyond the rail in either direction; keep a healthy distance of at least 15 feet from the rails at all times.

Trains can be deceptive, too. If you see one in the distance, it’s probably moving much faster than it appears. Although you’ve seen it in action movies, never try to beat a train or drive around lowered gates. Even if the engineer sees you, a train can take up to a mile to stop once the emergency brakes are applied.

Be patient; after a train passes, wait for the gates to raise completely, since another train could be coming from the other direction. Proceed through the crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Don’t ever stop on the tracks. 

Remember, train tracks are private property. Walking or playing on the tracks is trespassing—and dangerous! It’s also illegal and dangerous to cross train tracks, except at a designated pedestrian or road crossing.

Know What To Do In An Emergency

If your vehicle ever stalls on the tracks, exit immediately and run away from the tracks toward where the train is coming from. If you run in the same direction as the train is moving, it could push your vehicle and other debris toward you.

If you see a vehicle stopped on the tracks, immediately call 911 or the number on the Emergency Notification Sign posted near the crossing. It will list the crossing number and street so train operators can be notified as early as possible.

Stop Look Listen Think sign on pavement at railroad crossing

Staying protected behind the wheel involves both knowing these rules of the road and having quality car insurance coverage. Get a fast, free quote from GEICO today. For even more safe-driving tips, check out the Car Safety & Insurance section on GEICO More.

By Nathan Erb

Next article: Walk This Way: Pedestrian Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life

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    Leave a comment

  1. Betty says,

    I was talking hands free on the phone and the red flashing lights confused me for a moment. The far arm started coming down and I realized a train was coming. I safely checked my mirror and reversed and backed up before the close arm would hit my new car. What a wake up call. Thank God.

  2. veronica R Spliethoff says,

    This site doesn’t say how to respond to a railroad crossing on a busy road that you must take to cross a bridge. this crossing has no lights or gates and relies on a flagman ( to re-olace the last flagman who was killed at the site)

  3. Rasik Rana says,

    Just like to know in Los Angeles, California before how much time the gates are lowered
    when the train is approching the rail road crossing. In minutes or seconds.

  4. Mohan Rao says,

    Do not enter the track area (crossing gate) until the vehicle infront of you has fully cleared the tracks leaving you enough space for your vehicle to cross the tracks fully without stopping.

  5. Shelly says,

    There are many unprotected railway crossings especially in rural areas… ,watch out for that crossing arm! Allow plenty of distance for safety sake.

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