There are a lot of things in life we dismiss however, railroad safety should never be one of them. One program to help bring awareness to railroad safety is Operation LifeSaver.
Operation LifeSaver is a national, nonprofit rail safety education group. They are announcing September 24-30, 2017 as Rail Safety Week. Their goal is to make everyone aware of the need to be educated and keep themselves safe at all railroad crossings.
The reason to commemorate a day for safety is their studies show about every 3 hours someone in the U.S., either a person or a vehicle is hit by a train. Hundreds of Americans each year are killed by train related incidents.
Whenever you are approaching a track, the first thing you should think is that there IS a train. So prepare to slow down. Start checking the traffic around you. If you are driving a school bus, your next obligation would be to prepare to stop, look and listen. I believe all traffic should stop at railroad crossings, but if you are driving a school bus you have no choice, it’s the Law.
It can take up to a mile to stop a train. Make sure you have complete clearance on the other side of the track plus 15 feet extra. Only cross the tracks when you can do it unobstructed by traffic or pedestrians. Trains hang over the tracks 3 feet on both sides. Remember the 15/50 rule. Stop no closer than 15 feet from the tracks and no farther than 50 feet away from the tracks. This will insure the bus is not too close and will get hit with the overhang of the train, and close enough that you can look and listen in both directions for an approaching train.
If you see or hear a train coming, never think you can beat the train. Trains travel at high rates of speed but because they are so large, they appear to be going slowly. Rule of thumb, if you can see a train, wait. Also be aware there may be multiple tracks. Some trains run side by side. Just because you think you can beat the train you can see, you may miss the one you can’t see. So waiting until all tracks are clear is always the safest time to cross the tracks.
When you have determined it is safe to cross the tracks, cross quickly without stopping. Never stop your vehicle or change gears while crossing the tracks. Never drive around lowered or lowering gates. If your vehicle was to get stuck on the track, get out immediately. Run in the opposite direction the train is traveling and run going away from the track. Do not try to recover your vehicle until emergency help has instructed you to. All railroad crossings have an emergency notification sign to report any issue dealing with the signal or stalled vehicle at a crossing.
When you stop, look, and listen, you are increasing the odds you will clear the track safely and live to see another day. Don’t be complacent when it comes to railway safety. Your ability to observe the laws, tracks, traffic, signals and stop signs could make the difference in saving your life and the lives of others.