Drivers, pedestrians should use caution at railroad crossings

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According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, this state is a national leader in railroad operations. Ohio is home to nearly 40 railroads that operate thousands of trains every day over roughly 4,525 miles of track and 6,100 public-grade crossings.

In 2016, more than 2,000 collisions with trains and motor vehicles occurred, resulting in 265 fatalities and nearly 800 people hurt in the United States.

The 88 Air Base Wing’s Safety Office recommends the following:

Never drive around lowered gates. Driving around lowered gates is illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, contact your local law enforcement agency.

Never race a train to the crossing. Even if you tie, you lose.

Do not get trapped on the tracks. Only proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing if you’re sure you can completely clear it without stopping. Remember, the train is 3 feet wider than the tracks on each side.

Get out of your vehicle if it stalls. If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, immediately get everyone out and far away from the tracks. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance. If a train is coming, get out quickly and move away from the tracks in the direction the train is coming from. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, you could be hurt by flying debris when it hits your vehicle.

Watch out for a second train. If you are at a multiple-track crossing and waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching in either direction.

Expect a train on any track at any time. Most trains do not travel on a regular schedule. Be cautious at a highway-rail grade crossing at any time, day or night.

Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 mph can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That’s 18 football fields!

Do not be fooled. The train you see is closer and moving faster than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.

Cross train tracks at a designated crossing only. When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways and drive across quickly without stopping. Remember: It isn’t safe to stop closer than 15 feet from the rail.

Safety tips for pedestrians

Do not walk on or over railroad property – this is trespassing. Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property.

Cross tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Do not walk, run, cycle or operate all-terrain vehicles on railroad tracks, rights-of-way or through tunnels. The only safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a designated public crossing.

Do not cross the tracks immediately after a train passes. A second train might be blocked by the first. Trains can come from either direction. Wait until you can see clearly around the first train in both directions.

Never walk around or behind lowered gates at a crossing. Do not cross tracks until the lights have stopped flashing and it is safe to do so. You can be fined for failure to obey these signals. The more severe penalty could be a serious injury or death.

Do not hunt, fish or bungee-jump from railroad bridges or trestles. There is only enough track clearance for a train to pass. Trestles aren’t designed for public use and not meant to be sidewalks or pedestrian bridges.

Do not attempt to hop aboard railroad equipment at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb or your life.

Applying and sharing these safety tips can help avoid a potential tragedy.

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