Connecticut's Rail Safety Program
KEY SAFETY POINTS FROM OPERATION LIFESAVER
ANY TIME IS TRAIN TIME!
- Many drivers pay little or no attention at highway-rail grade crossings they drive across day after day because they never see a train there. They don't realize that freight trains do not run on set schedules and can be anywhere at any time going in any direction! At all crossings, and especially those you are most familiar with-----ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN!
TRAIN CRASH STATISTICS
- About every 3 hours, a person or vehicle is struck by a train in the United States. When Operation Lifesaver started, there were over 12,000 incidents per year. Since then, collisions have dramatically decreased and in 2018, there were 2,217 crossing collisions with 262 deaths and 840 injured.
Trespassing remains the number one cause of fatalities along the rails with approximately 1000 person being struck annually. Many do not realize that it is not only illegal trespassing (CT General Statute 53a-110d), but it is very dangerous.
TRAINS CAN'T SWERVE!
- When locomotive engineers see a vehicle or person on the tracks in the path of their train, they can't swerve out of the way-----There's no steering wheel! The train simply follows the tracks. Engineers can only sound the warning horn and apply the emergency brakes. A train in emergency braking will stop, but not in time to avoid this collision. (See the following safety facts to find out why.)
TRAINS CAN'T STOP QUICKLY!
- Did you know that many freight trains average100 cars in length and weigh anywhere from 12 million to 20 million pounds, and that it takes over a mile to stop it in a emergency braking position? That's right! That's the length of at least 18 football fields traveled before coming to a complete stop! Why such a long distance? There are brakes on every wheel, but it takes that long for all of those brakes to overcome the momentum of the tremendous weight pushing the train. Always yield the right of way to the train because the engineer cannot yield to you.
- The average family car weighs about 3,000 pounds. We all know what happens to a 12-ounce can of pop when a car runs over it. The can of pop is totally destroyed because the weight ratio of the car to can of pop is 4,000 to 1. The average freight train weighing 12 million pounds outweighs a car by the same ratio of 4,000 to 1. When a force of 12 million pounds hits a car, it will be destroyed-----just like the can of pop!
IGNORING THE WARNINGS!
Some grade crossings are equipped with automatic warning devices such as flashing lights and bells and gates that activate when a train is approaching. These are active warning devices.
Many other crossings only have passive warning signs to alert you of a possible hazard ahead. These include the "advance warning sign" (circular, yellow in color, with a black "X" and black letters "RR" and the "pavement markings" (large "X" and "RR" painted on the surface of the road). Amazingly, over half of all collisions occur at crossings equipped with the automatic signals. Why? It's because some drivers choose to drive around the gates or through the flashing red lights because they thought they could beat the train. (See the following safety fact to find out why many people misjudge the train's speed!).
THE OPTICAL ILLUSION
- Because of the huge size of a locomotive (17 feet high and 10 feet wide), it appears to be raveling much slower than we think when viewed from a single angle at the crossing. The combination of the size and angle create this illusion. The railroad tracks also add to the illusion. The parallel lines of the rails converge toward the horizon and fool our minds into thinking the train is farther away than it actually is. It is virtually impossible to accurately judge the speed of a train when these conditions of illusions are present. The train will be at the crossing before we expect it.
DRIVERS RUNNING INTO TRAINS!
- Did you know that in 25% of the crashes occurring at highway-rail grade crossings----people actually run into the side of the train? It's true! Often, it's because the driver is going too fast for conditions, such as darkness, rainy weather or fog. Many drivers "overdrive their headlights". This means driving too fast to be able to stop in the distance illuminated by your headlights. By the time you see the train at the crossing, it's too late to avoid the crash. In other instances, there may be high levels of noise in the vehicle (loud radios, conversations, etc.), causing the driver to be inattentive and not hear the train's warning devices. Always remember to look and listen when you see the warning signs indicating a highway-rail grade crossing ahead!
- Drivers who pass vehicles when approaching a highway-rail grade crossing run the risk of a collision at the crossing. The vehicle being passed may obstruct a clear view of the tracks, or vehicle speed while passing may be too great to stop in time!
- Before starting across the tracks, be sure there's room to get completely across. Many drivers get trapped on the crossing, between other vehicles, and end up getting hit by a train or abandoning their car just in time to see it destroyed!
- Many crossings are on a raised surface higher than the roadway. Shifting gears with a manual transmission while going across this raised surface may cause the vehicle to stall on the tracks. Be sure to shift well ahead of or after the crossing to avoid getting stuck on the tracks!
- If your vehicle is ever stalled or trapped on the tracks and a train is approaching, get yourself and all other passengers out----fast! Don't try and take any other items with you. It may be a fatal mistake! Remember one very important thing when running away from the vehicle----run away from the tracks at an angle in the direction of the approaching train. When the train strikes the vehicle it will send flying metal and glass ahead of and outward from the locomotive. Many people have been seriously injured and even killed because they ran in the wrong direction!
- If a train is not approaching, be sure to get yourself and all other passengers out of the vehicle and to a safe location. Find the Emergency Notification System sign and call the Railroad. Tell them the crossing number (6 digits and an alpha character) and the nature of the problem. If you cannot find the sign, call 911 and them the location of the stalled crossing and the nature of the problem at the crossing. They will contact the railroad, and the railroad will do everything possible to stop any trains before they get to the crossing.
THE SECOND TRAIN!
- When you're at a crossing with more than one track, don't try to cross immediately after the end of the train passes by. There may be another train approaching on the other track. Trains hide other trains. Many crossing fatalities have resulted because of impatience or unawareness at multiple-track crossings. You will always know how many tracks are at the crossing by observing the familiar "crossbuck" (white X-shaped sign with black letters that spell "railroad crossing"). Directly below the crossbuck is a sign that indicates the number of tracks present if there are multiple tracks at the crossing. The crossbuck is also a regulatory sigh that means "yield the right-of-way" to the train.