Railroad Crossing Accidents Caused 270 Deaths Last Year, NHTSA Warns

Federal highway and railroad officials have launched a multi-million dollar campaign designed to highlight the importance for motorists and pedestrians staying clear of railroad crossings when trains are coming, indicating that more than 250 railroad crossing accidents last year resulted in deaths.

The public safety awareness campaign, Stop. Trains Can’t began on April 18, and involves $5.6 million spent to warn Americans about the importance of exercising caution at rail-highway crossings.

U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) indicate that there were at least 270 fatalities at railway intersections in 2018, with 99 of those deaths involving vehicle occupants who were killed after driving around lowered crossing gate arms.

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The number of deaths involving motorists attempting to go around lowered crossing gate arms has reached a ten-year high, with approximately 798 fatalities occurring as a result of rail crossing accidents involving motorists since 2013. Officials estimate either a person or a vehicle is struck at a railroad crossing in the United States every four hours.

The Stop. Trains Can’t campaign urges drivers to always be alert for active warning devices such as flashing lights or gate arms descending or lowering, indicating a train is approaching.

Given the size and weight of either a freight or passenger train, a train traveling at 55 mph can take more than a mile to stop, even when the emergency brakes are applied, experts warn. Trains cannot swerve away from a vehicle on its tracks, leaving vehicle drivers responsible for making sure the tracks are clear when trains are approaching.

“Road safety is NHTSA’s mission, and too many lives are lost every year when drivers disregard safety warnings at rail crossings,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi R. King said in the press release. “Working with Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and FRA, we want every American to understand the danger surrounding rail crossings and to act with safety in mind.  Trying to save a few minutes can cost you your life.”

The collaborative campaign between the NHTSA and FRA will run from April 16, through May 12, and include video spots on digital, radio and social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Officials have also released a Stop. Trains Can’t video depicting how deadly driving around train crossing arms can be.

While the campaign scope is national, the ads target high-incident communities which have experienced a high rate of train collisions, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.

Motorists are being encouraged to always follow the seven simple steps when approaching a railway crossing that includes.

  • Stop and look both ways and listen before crossing because trains always have the right of way.
  • Always make sure you have room to get across the tracks without leaving your vehicle partially within the rail crossing area.
  • Stop 15’ away from crossing gates.
  • Never drive around a lowering gate and never ignore railway crossing signals.
  • Always wait for the crossing arm gates to raise all the way and the lights to stop flashing before crossing the intersection.
  • Never assume it is only one train passing.
  • If your vehicle stalls in a railroad crossing, get out of the vehicle immediately and call the number on the nearby crossing sign or 911.


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