About Impact Recovery Systems

Order Our Catalog

GSA Contract Holder # GS-03-002CA

Click Here to view and download our newsletter archives.

Rail Crossing Safety Basics for Drivers

The basics of rail crossing safety are important for drivers to know. In fact, most train-related wrecks involve motor vehicles, not pedestrians. Fortunately, the following principles for rail safety are easy to learn and remember. They include:

1.     Stopping completely at all tracks. This is the most essential rule for rail crossing safety. Simply slowing down and glancing at the tracks is a recipe for disaster. Studies show that it takes the brain as long as several seconds to perceive a moving object. There is simply no substitute for stopping completely at railroad crossings.

2.     Looking both ways twice. This is important because the human eye can play tricks. It happens all the time in vehicle-on-vehicle crashes: motorists simply don't see an approaching car or truck before they pull out. To guard against this, drivers should always look twice, both to the left and the right, before going across tracks.

3.     Turning off the radio, lowering the front car windows, and ending phone calls. An approaching train can be surprisingly quiet, especially those with modern diesel engines. Add this to the problem of distracted driving, and the need for shutting off all forms of media and opening vehicle windows becomes clear. If there are passengers in the car, they should remain silent while the driver listens and looks for an approaching train.

4.     Once the driver starts across the tracks, they should continue until safely on the other side. Vehicle should have a minimum distance from the tracks of 10 feet or more to ensure safety from a passing train.

5.     Should the automobile stall while crossing the tracks, the driver and any passengers should exit the vehicle immediately. Under no circumstances should they stop to retrieve items from the trunk or other locations in the car. The few seconds needed to perform these actions may be all the time needed for a train to arrive.

6.     Drivers should always remember that a train requires at least 300 yards to stop completely. That's three times the length of a football field. An engineer cannot simply "slam on the brakes" without causing a derailment.


Added Principles of Rail Crossing Safety


·      Passersby who see a vehicle stalled on railroad tracks should never attempt to move the vehicle themselves. Instead, they should immediately contact emergency responders in the area to notify them of the situation.

·      If a motorist's vehicle stalls on the tracks and a train is approaching, then driver and passengers should exit the vehicle and run toward and alongside the train, not away from it. This will minimize their chances of being injured or killed should the train derail or if the engine were to push the vehicle off the tracks.

·      In many cases, railroad companies post an emergency phone number at crossing locations. This number is to alert transit authorities in case of an obstruction on the tracks. Drivers whose vehicles stall on the track should call this number and stay in the area if a locomotive isn't approaching.

·      Drivers should never attempt to go around a lowered crossing gate, even if a train is not in sight. Instead, they should contact local authorities and look for another safe place to cross the tracks.

·      Citizens should help to spread the word about rail crossing safety. They can do so by holding public meetings, posting notices in appropriate places, and accessing media outlets or the Internet.


Rail crossing safety is everyone's business. Each year, dozens of people are needlessly killed in train-on-vehicle collisions. By teaching motorists how to safely cross the railroad tracks, society can help minimize the frequency of these dangerous accidents.