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| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

According to the Federal Safety Administration, around 2,000 people have died in the past decade in railroad collisions. These train accidents result from several factors such as; warning lights and signals failing to work properly, train conductors not following posted speed laws or failing to notify passing cars at upcoming intersections, or driver neglect.

As a personal injury attorney who frequently represents railroad accident victims I know first hand how traumatic a train collision can be. Fortunately so does the railroad giant, Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF, is working with local law enforcement in select areas of the United States to promote driver awareness. The campaign, known as “Officer on a Train,” places a police officer on a train during its normal route. The officer then looks for drivers who do not follow railroad safety laws such as stopping behind the train tracks.

Right now the “Officer on a Train” safety campaign is working its way through Kansas (KS). Hopefully, the BNSF railroad will make a stop in North Carolina (NC) soon. However, North Carolina (NC) drivers can work to increase railroad safety awareness on their own. If you frequently travel across train tracks remember that train safety arms and warning lights can malfunction. Always look both ways and use extreme caution when traveling across the tracks. Never attempt to “beat the train” by speeding through a closing stop arm. These arms can get lodged on your vehicle causing you to be stuck on the train tracks while a train is approaching. Finally, if you car becomes stalled on train tracks always exit the vehicle. Do not remain inside the vehicle. A train can approach quickly and you may not have time to exit your car.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.


One Comment

  1. Gravatar for John Smythe
    John Smythe

    No wonder so many motor vehicals get into trouble at railroad grade crossings, with what sounds like a new wave of political correctness words and terms. What the devil are " train safety arms " something that sprouts out the side of a train and waves to people? The're better known as " Railroad Crossing Gates " To add more confusion this news article then refers to the same item as a " stop arm " sounds like part of my mothers dish washer to me. One other thing that sounds screwy as well, those " closing stop arms " that are refered to as causing motor vehicals to become stuck on the train tracks is probably true if you're driving a electric golf cart with a dying battery. Those " GATES " are designed to break off should a vehical get trapped between them especially if that grade crossing has been equiped with what is refered to as " QUADS " which are 4 sets of gates that block the road from both directions from both sides of the road. Whether those gates are made of wood, plastic, fiberglass or alunimun just about every make car and truck that I've ever worked on has enough horsepower in low gear to break the gates off and away from the fasteners that attach them to the counter wieghted motor assembly affixed to the vertical pole that all remaining hardware such as the flashing lights, bell, signs and cross buck are affixed to. With so many people calling themselves experts and using so many different conflicting statements and terms no wonder there is so much confusion by the motoring public as what to what is really going on. Last of all proper functioning of the grade crossing signals is the responsibility of the railroad, not the motorist except where there lacks automatic signals. Private crossings, rural roads, industrial parks, etc may or may not have provisions for warning motorists. Train crews may at times manually flag a non automatic protected crossing, some crossings may have STOP signs located next to the crossing, some abandonded lines may have signs stating " EXEMPT " meaning that vehicals that normally need stop at at every grade crossing such as school busses and gas tankers need not stop at that particular crossing. One thing is important and that is to pay attention while you are driving, be aware of your surroundings and always " STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN " when unsure or required to do so. Should your car get stuck on a grade crossing or tracks anywhere YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF YOUR CAR A.S.A.P and far away and call 911. Some grade crossings have emergency phone numbers posted on them and a code number identifying them as to exacly where you are. I've been a railroad buff for a long long time and worked for a tourist line for several years, a grade crossing gate is a grade crossing gate calling it all kinds of other words does nothing but confuse people.

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