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Just how common are car-train accidents?

You might think you don’t have to worry too much about trains on your daily commute, but the truth is accidents at railroad crossings are more common than most people realize. In the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train roughly every three hours. What’s more, is in the last five years alone, 798 people lost their lives while attempting to drive across railroads.

A vast majority of car-train accidents occur when a motorist believes they can beat a train – 75% of those killed died after the driver went around lowered crossing gate arms. To increase public awareness to reduce railway crossing deaths and injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration have launched this year’s campaign “Stop. Trains Can’t,” that will last until November 8th, 2020.

Trains don’t have the luxury of being able to swerve out of the way or brake quickly. A train traveling 55 mph would require one mile or more to come to a complete stop. Drivers must understand that when they try to beat a train, they are gambling with their lives.

How motorists can help prevent car-train collisions

Fortunately, most fatal car-train accidents are entirely preventable. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers should take the following precautions the next time they find themselves at a railway crossing:

  • Always be prepared to stop at a railway crossing
  • When approaching tracks, slow down, look both ways and listen carefully
  • Never stop on train tracks
  • Before crossing train tracks, ensure there’s enough room for your vehicle on the other side
  • Pay attention to warning devices like flashing lights and traffic signs

It’s also important to remember that nearly half of all U.S. railway crossings are passive – meaning they have no crossing gates, flashing lights, bells or other warnings to indicate when a train is coming. To ensure your safety, you should always assume a train is approaching even if there are no warnings.

When it comes to railway crossings, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. After all, waiting for a train to pass is far better than the alternative.

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