The news reports from Gary, Indiana tell of another tragic accident involving a commuter train and a conversion van. In this case, the driver of the van went around lowered crossing guards, ignoring the flashing warning lights that were activated to prevent traffic from crossing the tracks. The driver’s attempt to beat the oncoming train resulted in the fatal collision. The impact ejected him from the vehicle and caused his unfortunate death.
Fully loaded freight trains can weigh 12 million pounds. They are unable to avoid obstacles on the track and cannot swerve to avoid a car or pedestrian. With the combination of weight and speed, a fully loaded freight train may require more than a mile to come to a complete stop.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reports that train/car collisions are the second leading cause of railroad fatalities. Often, these deaths are a result of drivers’ refusal to heed the warning lights or dropped crossing gates. Drivers who cross the tracks, regardless of the warnings of an oncoming train, put their lives and the lives of their passengers at great risk.
Despite the FRA’s attempts to increase safety and decrease fatalities, there are still many rail crossings throughout the state of Indiana that remain a danger for vehicular traffic. Many of these dangerous conditions are due to preventable factors. For instance, over-grown vegetation can block a driver’s view of the tracks and the safety equipment at those intersections.
Out-dated safety equipment, worn switches, and aging tracks can also be a contributing factor to some fatal accidents. When this equipment fails drivers are left with a false sense of security. If a driver enters one of these crossings unaware of an oncoming train, they are unlikely to survive the outcome.