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Safety Rail/Highway Tips & Rules

Author / Coordinator:  
March 2007

The Law and Railroad Crossing Signals

In most states, motor vehicle laws read:

"Whenever any person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing and signals indicate an approaching train, the driver of such vehicle shall stop within fifteen feet from the nearest rail of such railroad and shall not proceed until he can do so safely."

The driver must treat the crossbuck as a yield sign and the motorist must stop whenever automatic signals are activated.
A driver is obligated to:

  • Not exceed the speed limit.
  • Be able to stop within an assured clear distance ahead.
  • Drive with reasonable care in all circumstances.

Railroad Rules and Special Instructions

The engineer and train crew also have responsibilities at crossings, which generally include the following:

  • Ring the bell.
  • Blow the whistle one-quarter mile from all public crossings, or as whistle signs indicate.
  • Keep the headlight on bright.
  • Proceed at rates consistent with timetable speed or the safety of the train.
  • Observe all bulletins and rules.  

Operation Lifesaver

To increase motorists’ awareness of the law, the railroad industry, through the Operation Lifesaver Program, has been working with law enforcement agencies to help prevent highway-rail collisions. OL stresses the importance of issuing citations in both accident and non-accident situations when the motorist:

  • Does not slow down.
  • Does not look.
  • Tries to beat the train.
  • Does not stop for signals.

Safety Tips at Highway-Rail Crossings

  • Anytime is train time – trains can run on any track in either direction.
  • Use extra caution at night – don’t overdrive your headlights at night or in bad weather.
  • Watch out for the second track – two tracks may mean two trains–make sure all the tracks are clear before crossing.
  • Don’t get boxed in – don’t let traffic or gates stop you on the crossing.
  • If your car stalls or stops on the crossing for any reason, get yourself and any passengers out and away quickly.

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