As California remains number one in the nation for fatalities at railroad crossings, Caltrans reminds Californians to remember the risks and dangers around trains and railroad tracks and to practice safe behavior around them during U.S. Rail Safety Week, observed Sept. 24-30.
With at-grade rail crossing fatalities in California up nearly 80 percent between 2015 and 2016, this is an opportunity to remind pedestrians and motorists how they can help reduce the uptick in incidents and fatalities across rail networks in California. Escalon has multiple crossings in the city and many in the rural area surrounding the community, making the Caltrans reminder all the more important.
“It is vital that people understand that it is never worth taking a shortcut across the tracks or trying to beat a train by driving around the railroad crossing gates,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Rail Safety Week is an opportunity to remind motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to stay alert around railroad tracks.”
According to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) statistics, fatalities at at-grade crossings rose 79.3 percent from 2015 to 2016, ranking California as number one in the nation for that statistic as well. An at-grade crossing is a location where a public or private road, street, sidewalk or pathway intersects railroad tracks at the same level. Injuries and fatalities can occur when drivers attempt to drive around lowered gates or do not completely clear the crossing.
FRA statistics also rank California as number one for trespass casualties in the nation, with 101 deaths and 90 injuries reported in 2016. This is a 17.4 percent jump from 2015. Injuries due to trespassing jumped a whopping 73.1 percent from 2015 to 2016. Trespassers are by definition illegally on private railroad property without permission. They are most often pedestrians who walk across or along railroad tracks or trestles as a shortcut to another destination. Some may be loitering, while others are engaged in recreational activities such as jogging, hunting, or taking photographs.
Remember these safety tips:
Trains can’t swerve nor can they stop quickly. A typical freight train can take more than a mile to stop, even when emergency brakes are applied – the distance of 18 football fields.
The train you see is closer and faster-moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
Stay alert. Trains can come from either direction at any time and can be very quiet. Around train tracks or in stations, obey all warning signs and signals and use caution when using headsets or cell phones.
Cross the tracks only at approved crossings. It is illegal to cross railroad tracks at any other location. Do not try to beat a train at a crossing. It is almost impossible to accurately judge the distance and speed of an oncoming train.
Do not stand close to the tracks. A train is at least three feet wider than the tracks on each side. Additionally, a fast moving train may kick up or drop debris.
For more safety information, visit the Federal Railroad Administration at https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0841 or Operation Lifesaver at https://oli.org/ or http://www.seetracksthinktrain.org/.