Crashes between trains and semi trucks, pickups, buses or cars rarely end well for the vehicle that’s not the train. It seems to me that there have been a disturbing number of these crashes that have made news nationwide within the past couple of months or so. Nebraska is not immune from this trend, sadly, as here are three examples of varying details that just happened over the course of a recent month.
Just recently, “James Hubbard of Dakota City was driving east across the tracks when his rig was hit by a northbound train,” according to a news article on Journalstar.com, Lincoln, Neb.’s, local newspaper. This television coverage gives more details. Sympathy and thoughts go out to Mr. Hubbard’s loved ones.
Another story in the past month came from within the state around west-central Nebraska, near North Platte. A semitrailer loaded with 68 cattle was hit by a Union Pacific passenger train, and no humans were hurt, although a number of cattle died, were hurt, or escaped the semi’s trailer.
Although it’s reassuring that no one was hurt in the next recent story, it’s also important to let someone know if your vehicle gets high-centered on railroad tracks. This situation, also near North Platte, elaborates on that scenario.
In addition, though not in Nebraska, here are links to three other recent accidents between trains and trucks: one in California, one in Indiana, and one in Florida. According to the news reports, no one was hurt, though all situations were definitely dangerous.
Because attorneys and staff members of Rehm, Bennett & Moore work with injured truckers through the website truckerlawyers.com and various related social-media outlets, I am convinced through my interactions with truck drivers that the vast majority are extremely safety-conscious and careful. But I urge all, regardless of what kind of vehicle you drive, to have a renewed diligence at train crossings.
In fact, my family lives within a mile of a set of very busy train tracks, and on any given day, I usually cross tracks around Lincoln, Neb., around 10 times. So although it is sobering that it takes another person’s death as a reminder, I, too, will encourage my friends and family to follow through on these tips that can be found on the Operation Lifesaver website, which is an excellent resource for truckers and all drivers.
- “Trains and cars don’t mix. Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
- 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.
- Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That’s 18 football fields!
- Never drive around lowered gates — it’s illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
- Do not get trapped on the tracks; proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
- If your vehicle ever stalls on a track with a train coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
- At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
- When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping. Remember it isn’t safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
- ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN! Freight trains do not follow set schedules.”
Being armed with information is important, so here are links to three more Operation Lifesaver sites:
Grade Crossing Fatalities by State (Top 15)
Collisions by State (Top 15)
In addition, Operation Lifesaver does outreach specific to truck drivers and company safety programs, so contact them to learn more about taking advantage of those training options.
The reality is that just as all drivers need to avoid distractions and drive defensively, it is imperative that truckers, those traveling for work, and really, all drivers, pay attention to what’s around them, especially when it comes to crossing train tracks.