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Regulations About Quiet Zone Signs and Rail Safety

Quiet zone signs are used to promote overall tranquility and guard against noise pollution.  Their use in reference to rail corridors has been the topic of media scrutiny in recent years, largely as a result of activism by senior citizens.  For some people, the familiar sound of the train whistle is pleasant to hear.  For others, however, it creates an unwelcome intrusion into their daily routine.  This is especially the case among older people, largely due to changes that take place as the brain ages.  Neurological studies confirm that the elderly are particularly sensitive to loud or unexpected noises.  This makes the use of quiet zone signs in and around senior communities especially important.

Federal authorities have responded to these concerns by allowing local municipalities to restrict or ban the use of train whistles within a given distance around their borders.  To win approval for such a measure, the community must provide alternative methods of notifying the public when a train is passing through. These can include:

  • Crossbars that block vehicles from crossing railroad tracks when the train is nearby.
  • Focused sound devices that channel a warning signal directly towards approaching pedestrians and motorists.  These devices are far more direct in their sound output than the traditional train whistle.
  • Flashing signals that substitute visual warnings for audio signals like a train whistle.

Achieving approval for a train whistle-free area involves petitioning federal transit authorities for an exemption.  Officials will then visit the area in question, evaluate the proposed alternative safety systems, and either approve or disapprove the request.  Once the modified safeguards are in place, the community may post the appropriate quiet zone signs for this purpose.  As public safety must always come first, the onus is on local residents to prove trains can pass safely through their area without sounding their whistles.

The use of quiet zone signs to mark a train whistle-free area is an increasingly popular option in today’s society.  As long as public safety is maintained, this option should remain open to communities of all sizes.