Railroad Crossing Safety

When it comes to driving you may think that it is easy to avoid a 200-tonne train when you are behind the wheel of a car. Yet a vehicle or pedestrian is hit by a train every three hours in the US. This means that a lot of people are still not getting the message that when it comes to a car vs a train, then the train ALWAYS wins.

Simple Tips

As mentioned above, remember that trains always have the right of way. They don’t necessarily follow set schedules and they can move in either direction along the tracks. So whenever you are approaching a railroad crossing you should always expect a train.

The other thing is trains can be deceptive. Due to the size of freight trains they can be longer or larger than you expect. They can be moving faster than you think. Also with modern train designs, they can be quieter than ever. So make sure that you reduce the volume of your radio and listen carefully for the sound of approaching trains. You should also know that train drivers aren’t required to sound their horns when going through a crossing. So you can rely on this as an indicator of an approaching train.


Just because a train engineer has seen you it doesn’t mean that they will be able to stop the train in time if there is a problem. It can take up to a mile to stop a modern train, this means that in a lot of cases by the time you are seen it is too late to take action. Whilst it might be cool in the movies for vehicles to nip ahead of a speeding train just before it passes this rarely works out in real life. You are better off stopping very short of the crossing and making sure that you have sufficient time to cross.

What To Do

If the barriers are down at a crossing never attempt to cross even if you can’t see a train approaching. If a train has gone passed and the barriers remain down then this may well mean that another train is approaching so do not attempt to cross until the barriers are raised even if there is room to move around them. Railroad crossing signals will normally be active well ahead of a train coming, though this isn’t always the case. If the signals are going then make sure that you stop at least 15 meters back from the crossing. If the worst happens and your vehicle stops on the tracks get out of it immediately. You should attempt to contact the rail company as soon as possible to let them know the situation. Do this ahead of attempting to get recovery for your vehicle. If a train is approaching when you stop, then get out the vehicle and run in the direction the train is coming from. If the train hits your vehicle debris will be pushed in the direction of travel so going towards the train is safest.