“See tracks? Think Train!”
That’s the slogan for a new national awareness campaign designed to warn both motorists and pedestrians of railroad dangers. Here in Alabama, we have one of the highest rates of fatality for highway-railroad crossings in the country.
Our Injury lawyers in Montgomery note Alabama ranks 15th in the country for overall railroad deaths. That’s according to the Federal Railroad Administration, which tallied 85 train-related collisions with vehicles and 19 deaths, including those in vehicles and on foot, in Alabama during 2013.
One new station recently reported there were four Alabama train crashes in a single week. One in Jefferson County involved a man who had fallen asleep on the tracks. Another involved four people who were killed in Chilton County when the driver of a van tried to beat a train by crossing directly into its path. Four others were seriously injured in that incident. Two other incidents were also reported in Bessemer, though no fatal injuries were reported.
And just last month, a Montgomery man was killed when his vehicle was struck by a train at the intersection of McLemore and Wares Ferry roads. Troopers reported the 52-year-old was killed instantly.
While there are many railroad intersections that aren’t adequately marked, investigators say this one was properly identified. According to state and federal law, trains always have the right-of-way. Failure to heed these warnings too often ends in tragedy.
People may not realize that trains are closer and moving faster than they may appear. What’s more, it takes a conductor traveling 55-miles-per-hour more than a mile of track to come to a stop. By the time a person or vehicle is seen on the tracks, it’s too late.
Nationwide, the FRA reports that while 2012 was one of the safest on record, there was a significant increase in train crashes and deaths last year. The number of deaths resulting from trespassing on train tracks rose by 11 percent, bringing the total to 476. Meanwhile, the number of motor vehicle-versus-train deaths increased by 8 percent, bringing the total to 250.
Sometimes, upticks like this can be attributed to the random fluctuations of traffic patterns. However, some officials say distraction is playing a larger role than ever. Drivers must pay attention to their surroundings at all times, but nowhere is this more critical than around train tracks.
Pedestrians also should never assume that a set of tracks is safe. Trains don’t always follow set schedules, and there is always the possibility that a train could come barreling down the tracks without warning.
Other tips, as offered up by the non-profit railroad advocacy group Operation Lifesaver Inc.:
- Never drive around gates that are lowered. If a signal is malfunctioning, contact local law enforcement or call the 1-800 number posted on the crossing signal.
- If a train is approaching, wait for it to go before you cross.
- If your vehicle becomes stalled on the tracks and a train is coming, get out immediately. Move quickly away from the tracks in the direction the train is traveling.
- At crossings where multiple trains could cross, make sure you are clear in either direction before proceeding.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
See Tracks? Think Train! April 11, 2014, By Rebecca Burylo, Montgomery Advertiser
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