Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Neil Dickenson covers the topic of railroad crossing safety in the International Falls Journal guest column. Read the full story to learn more about how to prevent collisions with trains.
Agencies collaborate to teach public about rail safety in Winona area
At a recent rail safety event, Minnesota Operation Lifesaver, Canadian Pacific, Amtrak, Union Pacific Police and Winona Police worked together to raise awareness of railroad dangers and enhance safety around railroad tracks and crossings.
See videos and coverage of the event by the following media:
Safety improvements, education help bring rail crossing fatalities, crashes down in 2015
Vehicle-train fatalities and crashes at public railroad crossings in 2015 were the second lowest since 1970, according to the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations’ rail section.
Four people died at railroad crossings in 2015 in three separate crashes, said Tom Gellerman, rail grade crossing data manager. Thirty-two crashes occurred last year with 19 reported injuries. An additional three people were killed in trespassing incidents. Transit crashes are not included in the numbers.
Each year, MnDOT improves safety at grade crossings by installing or upgrading 25 to 30 active warning devices, spending $20 to $30 million annually. Learn more.
At 50 m.p.h., it takes a fully-loaded freight train 1.5 miles to come to a full stop. By the time the train engineer sees a vehicle or pedestrian on the tracks, it is often too late.
Driver ignorance and impatience are the most common factors contributing to motor vehicle/train crashes.
The chance of death or serious injury from a motor vehicle/train crash is 11 times greater than for other highway collisions.
Because of their size, approaching trains appear to be traveling at a slower speed.
Railroad tracks and property close to the tracks (railroad "right-of-way") belong to the railroad. People who don't have permission to be on railroad property are trespassing. Even if there isn't a "No Trespassing" sign, it's still illegal and dangerous to be on the property.
Follow these safety tips:
Yield the right-of-way to trains at highway-rail crossings. It's the law.
Never drive around lowering gates, it's illegal and deadly.
Only cross tracks where they are marked with pedestrian crossing markings.
Never race a train to the crossing, even if it is a tie, you lose.
Expect a train on the track at any time, trains do not follow set schedules.
Look out for the second train when crossing multiple tracks.
Immediately get out of your vehicle if it stalls on the crossing, get clear of the tracks and call 911.