Stay Off the Tracks: MDOT Warns About Dangers of Railroad Crossings

From the Macomb Township Patch:

The Michigan Department of Transportation has posted a safety video on YouTube to urge motorists and pedestrians to pay attention when approaching railroad crossings.

On the afternoon of Feb. 28, a Canadian National Railway train struck a 14-year-old high school student in Wyandotte. That same railway line runs through Macomb Township.

While Macomb Township’s section of track does not have a history of collisions, it is no less dangerous than any highway-rail grade crossing.

Given that Michigan still has one of the highest crossing collision records in all 50 states, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has posted a safety video on YouTube to urge motorists and pedestrians to pay attention when approaching railroad crossings.

MDOT has also partnered with Operation Lifesaver, a nationwide organization devoted to ending collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings.

While it may sound impossible, every three hours a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the U.S., according to Federal Railroad Administration statistics.

In the case of the Wyandotte teen, Jacob Marion, police believe he was walking along the tracks wearing an iPod and headphones and did not hear the train approaching. Dragged by the train, Marion is currently in critical condition at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.

As Operation Lifesaver suggests on its website, one of the most fatal actions a pedestrian or motorist can take when approaching a railroad crossing is to assume the train’s speed and try to “beat” the locomotive.

Operation Lifesaver offers these safety tips:

  1. Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times, and schedules for  passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail  intersection.
  2. All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it’s  illegal trespass and highly dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer  sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks it’s too late. It takes the  average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile—the length of  18 football fields—to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a  collision.
  3. The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can  weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train  proportional to that of a soda can to a car. We all know what happens  to a soda can hit by a car.
  4. Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.
  5. A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting  the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three foot mark. If  there are rails on the railroad ties always assume the track is in use,  even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.
  6. Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes their cars  are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially  true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
  7. Today’s trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale  “clackety-clack.” Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster,  than you think.
  8. There are over 160,000 miles of railroad tracks in the United States  (Association of American Railroads). Remember to cross them only at  designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs  and signals posted there. At many crossings you’ll see a sign bearing a  number. Use that to identify your exact location when calling to report  an emergency.
  9. Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other  distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train;  never mix rails and recreation