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Indiana Investing In Railroad Crossing Safety After Dangerous 2017

Steve Wagner

Synopsis

  • The Hoosier state was home to 12 fatal motor vehicle-meets-train accidents, and 47 injuries and 101 collisions with trains in 2017, ranking sixth highest in the nation.
  • State and Federal government have been proposing improvements to railroad safety for years, including House Bill 1002, aimed to improve crash-prone rail intersections across the state.
  • In addition, Indiana’s transportation authority recently announced it will provide at least $125 million in matching grants to local governments that undertake railroad safety projects. The plan is part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s agenda to upgrade the state’s infrastructure.
  • Even with these safety precautions set into motion, there are still too many drivers who disregard warnings, and those who take risks while crossing with train traffic, often at the expense of their own lives.

Transportation Authority Providing $125 Million To Railroad Safety

Indiana’s transportation authority has announced it will provide at least $125 million in matching grants to local governments that undertake railroad safety projects. The Department of Transportation program will require local agencies to contribute 20 percent of the money for land acquisition and construction and the state will take care of the rest. The plan is part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s agenda to upgrade the state’s infrastructure. The Governor signed a bill last year authorizing funding for the program, which was part of an infrastructure improvement plan approved by the Legislature. In addition to this new matching grant project, Indiana lawmakers have been busy trying to improve crash-prone rail intersections in other ways with the help of House Bill 1002.

While this news is good, the motor vehicle accident attorneys at Wagner Reese believe improvements to train crossings by using technology and train-activated lights and gates will not solve the whole problem of rail crossing safety. Driver behavior continues to be a significant contributor, because more than half of all crashes at railroad crossings occur at crossings equipped with flashing lights and gates that are in place, proving that better driver education needs to also be a priority.

How to Drive Safe Near Trains

It can take a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied, but even travelling at very low speeds, a train can still cause extreme injuries if it collides with a motor vehicle. It’s important for drivers of all ages to follow these safety tips provided by Operation Lifesaver, a public safety education organization aimed to reducing fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings.

  • Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
  • The train you see is closer and faster-moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
  • Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That’s 18 football fields!
  • Never drive around lowered gates — it’s illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the emergency number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
  • Do not get trapped on the tracks; proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
  • If your vehicle ever stalls on the tracks, get out and get away from the tracks, even if you do not see a train. Locate the Emergency Notification System sign and call the number provided, telling them about the stalled vehicle. If a train is approaching, run toward the train but away from the tracks at a 45-degree angle. If you run in the same direction a train is traveling, you could be injured by flying debris.
  • At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
  • When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping. Remember it isn’t safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
  • Know what train signage means, passive signs and active traffic control devices are installed along roads that cross railroad tracks both on the approach and at the highway-rail grade crossing to regulate, warn or guide traffic. They alert drivers to the presence of railroad tracks and to the possibility of an approaching train. These signs and devices also provide a safety message and remind the driver of the laws regarding highway-rail grade crossings.

Operation Lifesaver reported that the Hoosier state was home to 12 fatal motor vehicle-meets-train accidents, and 47 injuries and 101 collisions with trains in 2017, ranking sixth highest in the nation. That is just far too many and a ranking none of us should be comfortable with.

Who Is Responsible for a Railroad Related Crash?

Indiana law says all motorists should stop between 15 and 50 feet from the nearest railroad tracks before proceeding. But even with laws in place to reduce train vs. car crashes, there may be a case for wrongful death such as:

  • Even if a stop sign is in place, it may not be visible. In fact, the tracks, or an approaching train, itself may not be visible in the dark.
  • There might not be any crossbars in place at the crossing. Although railroad crossings without crossbars are common in some places, it may still be reasonably argued that the absence of crossbars, combined with poor lighting, made the driver oblivious to the danger. Indiana law mandates that the Indiana Department of Transportation co-ordinate with the railroad and the municipality to take all possible precautions to ensure safety at crossings.
  • Indiana law requires the railroad to equip the locomotive engine with a whistle, and a bell, and the driver to sound the whistle on the engine distinctly at least four times before reaching the crossing. If this is not done properly, motorists may be unaware of the approaching train.
  • Like vehicles, trains also have speed limits. In some accidents, victims have alleged that the train was above the permissible speed limits. This can be difficult to prove and a situation in which an experienced attorney can help.

We will continue to follow the advancements in the state’s railroad safety projects and work to routinely review and share factors related to Indiana’s poor train collision and causality rating. In the meantime, don’t forget to abide by traffic laws and operate your motor vehicle correctly to prevent a tragic accident with a train.

Train Accident Lawyers Who Are Here to Help

Train companies have powerful insurance companies, so if you or a loved one are injured in a collision with a train, it is critical to employ an experienced attorney. This is one scenario in which you do not want to find yourself alone, especially if you are healing or grieving. The auto accident attorneys at Wagner Reese have spent decades working on cases like these for vulnerable clients and their families.

Give us a call today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation or speak with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.

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