Earlier this year, a chance coincidence—three separate publicized train accidents occurring within the span of a few weeks—brought to everyone’s attention the dangers that can come along with the convenience of the railroad industry. David Clarke, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research, said in May, “I don’t necessarily think there is any long-term trend that we’re seeing develop here,” in response to the opinion that was ventured; that railroads were becoming unsafe.
While railroads are actually much safer than they have ever been, there are inevitable accidents and incidents that occur. It is, of course, an excellent idea to do whatever you can to avoid being a victim of a railroad accident; regardless of increased safety on the parts of the railroad companies, there are certain behaviors that can lead to a potentially fatal accident. By knowing these behaviors and by acting with as much safety consciousness as possible, you can avoid a costly and painful recovery.
First, it is essential that you do not attempt to “race” a train crossing. If you see the safety cross bars begin to come down, slow down and prepare to stop at a safe distance; don’t try and rush through. Even if you are in a hurry to catch an appointment, it makes more sense to make it there in one piece than to potentially not make it there at all. Also, remember that a train’s stopping distance is enormous—greater even than that of a commercial truck! A freight train moving at 55 miles per hour may need as much as a mile of stopping distance. With those odds, it is highly unlikely that the train is going to see you in enough time if you’re racing through.
Another basic precaution to take involves situations where you find yourself stuck on the tracks. If your car gets caught as you’re moving through a railroad crossing, immediately exit your vehicle and look for the 800 number that is posted at the crossing. Call the number—or if you can’t find it, contact the police. This way, any trains that are nearby can be alerted to your position and can be rerouted as needed.
It is not only individuals in cars that experience railroad accidents, obviously. If you are riding a train, there is also the potential for an accident to occur. Here, too, there are some precautions that can prevent injury; make sure that you are not standing as the train is braking to stop, if at all possible—this can result in you getting thrown around. Another easy precaution to take is to look carefully where you are stepping, both while on the train and as you exit. If an authority figure on the train advises passengers to remain in their seats, it is safest to do so—there may be unpredictable movement that would result in injury.
If you have been injured in a railroad accident, you may wish to retain the services of a railroad accident attorney. These professionals are specialists within the field of personal injury law and will work hard to help you in your claim. If there has been negligence on the part of the railroad company, for example, or if a train operator has behaved recklessly, resulting in injury or death to yourself or a loved one, a train accident attorney will help you to bring a case against those liable, to help compensate you for your pain and suffering.