MnDOT reminds public to use caution around railroad tracks

In the wake of two recent rail-related incidents, the Minnesota Department of Transportation reminds motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and railroad passengers to always use caution and observe the law when they are near or crossing railroad tracks.

The two recent incidents are prime examples of why trespassing on railroad property and operating a vehicle at a rail crossing are dangerous.

One incident occurred when a pedestrian trespassing on railroad property was struck by a train near Randall, resulting in life-threatening injuries. Another case involved a train striking a garbage truck in Buffalo, resulting in injuries to the truck driver.

"A freight train moving at 50 mph may need more than a mile to stop,” said Bill Gardner, MnDOT’s freight, rail and waterways director. “Once train engineers see a vehicle or pedestrian in a crossing or on the tracks, all they can do is apply the emergency brakes; however, it’s often too late for them to stop in time.”

So far in 2012, there have been seven fatalities involving pedestrians trespassing on railroad property and seven fatalities at rail crossings, compared to four fatalities involving trespassing and seven fatalities at rail crossings in all of 2011.

Most collisions with trains are preventable. Driver inattention and impatience are cited as the most common factors contributing to motor vehicle/train crashes.

MnDOT urges the public to be aware of the following rail safety tips to make sure they are not in the way of a train.

Motorists should:

Always stop their vehicle when crossing gates are down or lights are flashing; wait for the crossing gates to rise and lights to stop flashing; look both ways, listen and proceed with caution.Obey all signs and signals at railroad crossings.Never stop their car on railroad tracks; always keep their car behind the white lines when approaching an intersection at railroad tracks.Get out of the car immediately if it stalls while crossing the tracks, and call 911 or the emergency notification number located on the railroad signal equipment. If a train is coming, abandon the car. Proceed quickly towards the train at a 45-degree angle so that if the train strikes your car, you will be safe from flying debris. 

Bicyclists and pedestrians should:

Always look both ways before crossing railroad tracks and cross only in designated areas.Not cross tracks when gates are down.Be aware that trains may operate any time throughout the day and night in either direction.Be aware that walking on the railroad tracks is illegal.