When the average vehicle is involved in a collision with a freight train, the result is often serious, life-threatening injury to the occupants of the smaller car or truck. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), there are more than 4,000 miles of railroad track and over 3,700 public highway rail crossings throughout the state of Missouri. In this post, our Joplin train accident lawyers share some tips and information regarding train - vehicle collisions and railroad crossing safety.
Collisions between cars and trains: The startling facts
• In 2011, there were 2,054 train - vehicle collisions at railroad crossings throughout the United States, according to Operation Lifesaver. These collisions resulted in 271 fatalities and 1,026 injuries. In Missouri alone, there were 46 crossing crashes in 2011, causing 13 deaths.
• A driver of a passenger vehicle is nearly 20 times more likely to be killed in a collision involving a train than in a collision involving another passenger vehicle.
• The force of a 30-car freight train striking your vehicle is comparable to the force of your vehicle striking a soda can.
• When an average freight train is traveling 55 miles per hour, it requires more than a mile to come to a complete stop. That's about the length of 18 football fields.
• Many train - vehicle collisions occur when drivers ignore properly functioning crossing signals.
Railroad crossing safety tips for Missouri drivers:
• Don't assume you know when a train is coming. Freight trains don't operate on fixed schedules, and passenger trains' schedules can change. Similarly, trains won't always come from the same direction. When you approach a crossing, your safest bet is to assume a train is approaching.
• Remember that today's trains are quiet and fast. If you see a train in the distance, expect it to be closer and faster than it appears to be.
• Never try to race a train to a crossing or drive around lowered gates. Both practices are illegal - and more importantly, they can prove to be fatal. If you suspect a crossing signal is malfunctioning, call the 800-number posted on or near the crossing, or call police.
• If your vehicle stalls on the tracks when a train is approaching, exit the vehicle immediately and run away from the tracks. Run in the direction from which the train is approaching: if you run in the same direction as the train, you risk being struck by debris.
Under Missouri law, drivers are required to stop at least 15 feet from a railroad crossing (but no more than 50 feet), and wait to proceed through the crossing until they can do so safely. It's against the law to drive through a crossing when: "(1) A clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a railroad train; (2) A crossing gate is lowered or when a human flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a railroad train; or (3) An approaching railroad train is plainly visible and is in hazardous proximity to such crossing."