Opinion: A fully-loaded train is not to be taken lightly
At 50 mph, it takes a fully-loaded freight train 1.5 miles to come to a full stop. By the time the train engineer sees a vehicle or pedestrian on the tracks, it is often too late.
This is Rail Safety Week, and even though the safety of people who use the roads at Minnesota's 4,000-plus railroad crossings has improved in recent decades, there are still about 36 crashes per year, including five fatalities.
That’s down from the early 1990s, when over 100 crashes and 10 fatalities per year happened at rail crossings in Minnesota.
But the Minnesota Department of Transportation says people still need to be very careful around trains:
- At 50 mph, it takes a fully-loaded freight train 1.5 miles to come to a full stop. By the time the train engineer sees a vehicle or pedestrian on the tracks, it is often too late.
- Driver ignorance and impatience are the most common factors contributing to motor vehicle/train crashes.
- The chance of death or serious injury from a motor vehicle/train crash is 11 times greater than for other highway collisions.
- Because of their size, approaching trains appear to be traveling at a slower speed.
- Railroad tracks and property close to the tracks (railroad "right-of-way") belong to the railroad. People who don't have permission to be on railroad property are trespassing. Even if there isn't a "No Trespassing" sign, it's still illegal and dangerous to be on the property.
Follow these safety tips:
- Yield the right-of-way to trains at highway-rail crossings. It's the law.
- Never drive around lowering gates, it's illegal and deadly.
- Only cross tracks where they are marked with pedestrian crossing markings.
- Never race a train to the crossing, even if it is a tie, you lose.
- Expect a train on the track at any time, trains do not follow set schedules.
- Look out for the second train when crossing multiple tracks.
- Immediately get out of your vehicle if it stalls on the crossing, get clear of the tracks and call 911.