Understanding Railroad Safety
When we think of railroad accidents, we think of big, attention-grabbing collisions with high death tolls. We remember westerns or old cartoons where the villain ties the hero (or his love interest) to the track to wait for the train to come. But very few of us understand how the railroads that crisscross the United States actually work. Here are some facts about railroads to help keep you safe at every crossing:
1. Railroad schedules are always changing. Passenger trains may have fixed schedules, but they are often running late, and their schedules change on occasion. Furthermore, freight trains don’t have fixed schedules. Even if you’ve never seen a train at a certain crossing at a certain time, there is no guarantee that one won’t be there at the moment you happen to be crossing.
2. Train tracks are private property. Trespassing on them is illegal to minimize that danger. If a train does come, the engineer is (a) unlikely to see you and (b) unable to stop in time. Keep in mind that most trains require more than a mile to stop when traveling at an average speed.
3. Due to the stopping distance, trains have the right of way at all times, even in priority over emergency vehicles.
4. Trains can move in either direction, so no matter how certain you are that a train has passed, double-check in BOTH directions..
5. Because of new technology, trains are getting more and more quiet. Headphones (if you are on a bike) and music can eliminate the sounds of an approaching train, so always stay alert and be prepared for the train to be closer than you think. Crossing only at designated crossways can help this, as signs often work in tandem with the approaching trains.