Serious Car Accident Involving Railroad Crossing Sign in Tacoma

The Washington State Patrol responded to a car accident involving a railroad crossing sign over the weekend. An elderly couple was heading northbound on State Route 509, near the Port of Tacoma, when the incident occurred. Both were hurt in the car accident, with the 80-year-old woman sustaining life-threatening injuries. The State Patrol stated that collision was not due to impairment or medical emergency, but, rather, could possibly have been weather-related. This is still under investigation as information becomes available.

Where There’s a Track, There’s a Train

Trains and crossing tracks have been, and continue to be, a well-integrated part of our country’s infrastructure, history, and economy. Hundreds of thousands of miles of train track crisscross America from coast to coast, with over 209,000 railroad crossings. They are so common in our daily commutes that we probably don’t even recognize them as a potential hazard to our personal safety.

Although train accidents and fatalities are not as common as they were just a few decades ago, they still occur more often than one may realize. There were just shy of 12,000 train accidents at railroad crossings in 2014, resulting in some 800 fatalities, and thousands of more injuries that year. There were a variety of reasons these unfortunate mishaps occurred, most of which, stemmed from errors in human judgment.

Here are a few things to remember when driving near railroad crossings and crossing tracks:

  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 to 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 when 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” noise.  Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster than you think.
  8. Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
  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.

Crossing Traps

It’s illegal, and may even be deadly, to drive around lowered crossing arms. Call the emergency number posted near the crossing signal or local law enforcement if the signal is malfunctioning. Going around a lowered arm is NEVER safe!

If your vehicle stalls at a railroad crossing, get out and away from the tracks. Do so even if a train is not visible near the crossing. Call 911 and report your situation. If a train is approaching, run toward the train but away from the tracks at a 45-degree angle. You could be hit by flying debris if running in the same direction as the train.

Our Car Accident & Personal Injury Attorney’s Are Here to Help

Railroad companies and commuter trains are required to maintain high safety performance for their employees, passengers, and fellow commuters. Railroads, like airplanes, have “black boxes” installed in most locomotives. These recording devices provide information, including train speed, in the event of an accident or collision. All train signals are controlled automatically and are monitored by dispatch centers. They log information that can be recovered by an accident victim trying to prove negligence.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a railroad or car accident, call Fielding Law Group today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury professional today. We can help you get the compensation you need to get your life and health back on track. Remember-Don’t let an accident wreck YOU!