While the number of railroad crossing collisions, deaths and injuries have dropped over the past five decades, it’s still a startling fact that about every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train. To continue this downward trend we partner with Operation Life Saver, Utah Department of Transportation and local law enforcement to share information and bring public attention to the importance of practicing caution around rail.
In Utah during the past 10 years (2009-2018), there have been 134 collisions at highway rail grade crossings resulting in 28 fatalities and 40 injuries. Trespassing on railroad tracks in Utah has resulted in 16 fatalities and 13 injuries. To keep yourself safe and those you love, keep the following in mind:
Trains Always Have the Right of Way
By law, trains have the right-of-way at all railroad crossings. Trains, like FrontRunner and TRAX, cannot swerve, stop quickly, or change direction to avert collisions. A train traveling at 55 mph takes a mile or more to stop, that’s the length of approximately 18 football fields — after applying the emergency brakes! FrontRunner has a top speed of 79 mph, and TRAX has a top speed of 65 mph.
Know the Laws
State highway traffic safety laws require all drivers to slow, yield, or stop until the train has cleared the roadway and it is safe to cross. That means when you’re driving your car or waiting at a rail crossing as a pedestrian, it’s illegal to proceed until the red lights have stopped flashing.
Another thing to keep in mind, as romantic as some Instagram photos might make it look, walking on or close to railroads is trespassing and very dangerous.
Use Caution Near Rail
When approaching a railroad crossing, slow down, look and listen for a train on the tracks, especially at passive crossings (ones that don’t have gates or lights) and make sure there is enough room to cross all tracks before entering the railroad crossing.
Never stop on the railroad tracks. Keep moving once you have entered the crossing, and to avoid stalling, never shift gears on the tracks. If as a driver, you find yourself on the wrong side of the gates, the black and white crossing guards are meant to break, so proceed through them and out of the way of an approaching train.
If one of these points strikes you as surprising or as new information, consider sharing this blog or sharing our safety tips posted to our social media channels. A little bit of information might be the difference between life and death for someone.
Out and About for Rail Safety
Continuing to get the message out, UTA staff well be at the following events:
Tuesday, September 24 - Utah Transit Authority Police Department, Utah Highway Patrol, and Union Pacific will be educating motorists to “Stop. Trains Can’t” at the following rail crossings: 300 North and 200 West in Salt Lake City and 2100 South in South Salt Lake City.
Wednesday, September 25 – UTA Safety Team will be educating Davis County residents about crossing safety at the Layton Safety Fair at Layton Headquarters Fire Station, 530 N. 2200 W.
Thursday, September 26 – UTA Safety Team will be educating riders on “See Tracks? Think Train!”, as they hand out water bottles, key chains, and ink pens, at the Orem FrontRunner station from 7:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. and the North Temple FrontRunner and TRAX stations from 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, September 26 – UTA Safety Team will be educating Salt Lake City residents about commuter safety at the Move Utah Bike Summit from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Little America Hotel.
Friday, September 27 – UTA Safety Team, Operation Lifesaver and UDOT will be providing West High and Spanish Fork High School students with safety presentations, assemblies, footballs and posters.