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Railroad Crossings Caused 90 Accidents in Alabama in 2015

When a 30 car train hits a car, the vehicles hit each other with the same amount of force as a car smashing an aluminum can. It is that type of force that leads to more than 2000 accidents with many injuries and deaths at railroad crossings around the country each year. Ninety of those were in Alabama in 2015, according to Alabama Operation Lifesaver. 

Alabama has 6000 railroad crossings and 3500 miles of tracks. This means that drivers and pedestrians encounter railroad crossings every day. Operation Lifesaver Alabama travels the state regularly on a 40 city tour to educate citizens about the importance of railroad safety for drivers and pedestrians.

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Operation Lifesaver says that it has helped to cut down car/train accidents across the US from 12,000 in 1972 to 2059 in 2015. Even though the number of accidents has declined, Alabama still ranks #6 in the US for the number of accidents each year.

While Operation Lifesaver says it is very important for drivers and pedestrians to pay attention and to stop at railroad tracks, it also is important for railroads to make sure the safety lights and gates at crossings are working, and that the grass, trees and brush are cut so that drivers can see oncoming trains.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents can lead to serious injury or death. If you or a loved one was in such a railroad accident, we want you to have as much information as possible. There are many federal and state rules that affect the duties and responsibilities of the railroad company and crew that are using that railroad crossing. Some of the accidents that occur at railroad crossings are due to train engineer or railroad company error. 

One area where a train engineer can cause an accident is speeding through a railroad crossing; federal rules limit how fast trains can go through railroad crossings. Also, federal regulations apply regarding when a  horn or whistle must be blasted at a crossing. Further, trees, shrubs and vegetation at a railroad crossing must be trimmed so that drivers have an unobstructed view.

In short, railroad crossing accidents are very complex legally, and anyone in such an accident should speak to an experienced railroad accident attorney. Large settlements are possible in many railroad crossing accidents. 

Flashing Lights Never Installed At PA at Deadly RR Crossing

A Halifax PA railroad crossing where a woman was killed in a train accident on Labor Day is only marked by faded crossbuck signs. 

The community is asking if there should have been flashing lights and additional warnings installed at the deadly railroad crossing.

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The woman, Trisha Hoffman, 29, died instantly on Sept. 5 when her car was hit near Route 147.

Back in 1978, engineers testified about the proposed railroad crossing and said that the crossing should have flashing lights and other safety measures. Also, in the 1980s, a civil engineer with the railroad company recommended flashing lights at the crossing to counteract a wooded area that blocked the drivers’ view of approaching trains.

However, the PA government rejected the $60,000 flashing lights as too expensive. Instead, the government was supposed to clear the trees and brush 1000 feet north and south of the crossing.

The trees and brush were cleared but they grew back in the 1980s. Now the trees and brush hug the tracks and severely limit driver visibility.

Our View

Our railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia see too many railroad crossing accidents that end in death or serious personal injury. One of the most common reasons for deadly railroad crossing accidents is that the crossing is not maintained properly.

It is very important for proper sight lines to be maintained so that drivers can see approaching trains. This PA railroad crossing sounds as if there is far too much brush and trees hugging the tracks and this reduce visibility to the point that the woman could not see the train barreling towards her.

The article does not mention the railroad that uses that track, but it is the railroad’s responsibility in most cases to keep the brush and trees clear of the tracks. The woman’s loved ones should consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in railroad accident wrongful death cases.This woman had a long life in front of her, and her family should receive compensation for their pain and suffering and also for decades of lost wages that she would have earned if she had lived a normal life span.

 

 

 

Lethal PA Railroad Crossing Called ‘Seriously Deficient’ by Railroad Experts

A railroad crossing in Halifax PA where new mother Trisha Hoffman died on Sept. 4 has been termed ‘seriously deficient’ by two railway experts interviewed in early September by PennLive.com.

Pennsylvania state law does not require that drivers stop at all railroad crossings. They only must stop for flashing lights, gates, or if they know a train is oncoming.

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The problem with that railroad crossing at Susqeuhanna Trail Road and Route 147 in Halifax is that it is very difficult for drivers to see that a train is oncoming before it is almost on top of you. That is the opinion of Gus Ubaldi, an airport and railroad engineering expert with Robson Forensic in Lancaster PA.

That railroad crossing also has no stop or yield sign, even though it is recommended by nationally accepted standards for railroad crossings.

Norfolk Southern Railroad uses that track and crossing, but it told PennLive.com that the crossing is public, so that the Public Utility Commission of PA should determine signage and other requirements for it. However, it was determined that the crossing is actually private according to the Federal Rail Administration, so Norfolk Southern would be responsible for safety concerns.

According to Ubaldi, a driver on Susquenhanna Trail Road has to see a train 732 ft. down the railroad track from 70 feet before the car reaches the crossing. But at this crossing where the woman perished, the driver approaching the crossing cannot see anything other than trees and brush. When the driver is able to see a train approaching, the car would already be over the tracks.

Ubaldi stated that in his expert opinion, the deceased driver was not at fault

Our View

Our railroad crossing accident attorneys truly regret the loss of in this tragic railroad crossing accident. Railroad accidents obviously can lead to serious personal injury and death if crossings are unsafely maintained. From the coverage of this Pennsylvania railroad crossing accident, it would appear that Norfolk Southern may not have properly maintained the crossing, leading to a railroad crossing death.

Railroad crossings must have proper sight lines for drivers, with bushes, brush and trees properly cut away from the tracks. If the railroad crossing was improperly maintained, the railroad could potentially be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Our attorneys have worked on million dollar railroad crossing accident settlements before, and we hope this young woman’s family considers all of their legal options carefully.

 

 

 

Union Pacific Railroad Sued for Man’s Injuries at Crossing

A man from Beaumont TX is suing Union Pacific Railroad for his injuries after a February 2013 crash that happened on a Beaumont railroad crossing on Highway 90.  The man was driving a big rig hauling a crane when the trailer got stuck at the crossing. He hopped out of his truck to look at the damage, and then a train slammed into his rig. The lawsuit alleges that he suffered mental and physical injuries.

 

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The man’s attorneys stated that the trucker did not have a clear view of the stretch of tracks when he got out of his rig. The lawsuit further alleges that the train operators did not blow the horn when they approached the crossing, and they were not paying attention to the tracks when the crash happened.

Our View

We often represent injured clients who were hit by trains at railroad crossings. By using retired railroad workers as investigators, we are able to investigate the circumstances of the crossing and also we can pick up the phone and speak to other experts on railroad crossings. For example, we have represented people who were hit at railroad crossings and we were able to show that appropriate warnings were not followed at the crossing. In some cases, the vegetation was not properly cut around the tracks, which meant that drivers did not have a clear view of oncoming trains. In other cases, the train operators failed to blow their whistle, leading to a collision.

Amtrak and CSX Warn Drivers to Be Cautious at Railroad Crossings

Amtrak and CSX have teamed up with local police agencies in the Rochester NY area to remind drivers to take care around railroad crossings. The safety effort started this week along King Road in Chili NY near Rochester.

This railroad crossing was the site of a fatal car and train crash in 2015. Investigators stated that the crossing gates came down and an Amtrak train came through. Before the gates went up, a driver crossed into the path of a CSX train and was killed.

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CSX and Amtrak stated that drivers need to be sure that they always yield to signs and signals at railroad crossings.

The Federal Railroad Administration parroted this message during this safety blitz, and the FRA has promoted a mobile phone app that it is working with Google to add alerts about upcoming railroad crossings on its GPS mapping systems.

Our Take

Railroad crossing accidents are far too common in the US. Thousands of people are killed or injured each year because of these accidents. In fact, the FRA tells us that cars and trains hit each other every 12 minutes in the US.  But contrary to the message promoted by the railroads, the motorist is not exclusively at fault in the causal analysis of tragedies that occur at railroad crossings.

Take as one example stop signs added at railroad crossings in many rural areas. One would think that adding a stop sign at a railroad crossing would be a logical, solid idea to avoid tragedies where railroad trains strike cars or vehicles causing tragic injuries or deaths. In fact, a major study that I blogged about years ago found just the opposite, adding stop signs at many rural crossings increased crossing collisions rather than decrease them. Car drivers clearly need to use great caution around railroad crossings, keeping in mind that modern Amtrak trains travel up to 79 mph and some freight trains travel at 55 or 60 miles an hour. A train can be traveling at 60 MPH or more and appear from around the bend at a railroad crossing in a split second.

While some of these railroad crossing injuries and deaths are due to driver error, our experience as railroad crossing attorneys in Virginia has shown us that railroad negligence often is involved:

  • Maintenance problems: Sometimes the railroad crossing collision is caused due to the lack of light sport gates at a busy railroad crossing. Or, trees or shrub vegetation has grown up around the railroad crossing tracks that obscured the driver’s vision.
  • Train/railroad engineer operator error: In a study of 10,000 car/train accidents, human error was involved in almost 35% of them. Some of these were due to a sleepy train operator.
  • Distracted railroad transportation personnel (engineers or conductors): Train crews, just like car drivers, can become distracted by cell phones, the radio and other things, although more recently the use of cell phones has been banned during regular train operations.
  • Active gates and lights failure: There have been railroad crossing collisions where the gates malfunctioned, and even trapped a car on the tracks with a train approaching.

If you are involved in a railroad crossing accident, an experienced railroad crossing injury lawyer will be able to review all of the evidence of the crash, including video from the locomotive’s on board cameras, data event recorders and signalization information. An experienced railroad crossing injury lawyer may assist in determining if the railroad was to blame, which can result in a financial settlement to compensate you for your injuries, pain and suffering.

 

Missouri Woman Wins $20 Million in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The widow of a Steele MO man who died in a rail road crossing crash in 2012 won $20 million last month in a wrongful death lawsuit verdict.

After just two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict favoring the plaintiff against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The deceased was a successful and well-known businessman who owned several lumber mills.

The late businessman died in a crash with a BNSF train on Oct. 20, 2012. The crash occurred when Spence drove his Chevrolet Silverado over railroad tracks on Stoddard County Road 470 in Steele. The only signal at this crossing was a railroad crossing sign without lights and gates.

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BNSF stated in reaction to the verdict that there was no negligence by BNSF, and it claimed that the evidence showed that the man did not stop at the railroad tracks.

However, the man’s family stated in response that BNSF needs to improve all of its railroad crossings by cutting down vegetation that obscures sight lines for drivers. They also urged that the railroad install lights and gates at all public crossings.

The plaintiffs also argued that the crossing was defective due to inadequate sight distances and no lights and gates.

It is common for many people to not realize that the railroad is responsible for maintaining the safety of public railroad crossings. One of the sources that apply to the proper maintenance of shrubs and vegetation at railroad crossings is the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. this publication has details about the sight lines that should be available for drivers coming to a railroad crossing. It is common for overgrown vegetation at crossings to prevent the driver from seeing the approaching train. Many railroads will try to argue, as BNSF did, that the driver was at fault for not stopping. Fortunately, the jury did not buy that argument in this incident.

As railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia, we have handled many railroad crossing incidents over the years. When we are retained for a railroad crash personal injury case, we often employ retired railroad workers to investigate the incident so that we have the highest chance possible of recovering damages for the client.

 

Death at Railroad Crossing Highlights Danger with Maintenance of Way Vehicles

A deadly railroad crossing accident in Gilroy CA last year involving a Union Pacific maintenance vehicle has raised serious safety questions about these type of vehicles traveling through crossings and whether they always trigger crossing gates and lights.

The man who died, Don Williams, 55, was driving through the railroad crossing in Gilroy at Masten Avenue when his truck was blindsided by a maintenance of way vehicle that weighed 50 tons. According to the state highway patrol crash inquiry, the UP vehicle did not activate the grade crossing gates or signal lights.

Investigations by the California Highway Patrol and the Federal Railroad Administration determined that the UP driver had operated the rig negligently and violated several UP company safety policies. A warrant is out for his arrest.

Beyond the tragic death of Williams, this accident highlights what some railroad safety experts say is a major flaw in the way in which maintenance of way vehicles and other rail vehicles operate on the nation’s railroads. That is, they do not always activate bells and gates at railroad crossings.

The railroad crossing in question does have bells and lights but it was not functioning when he crossed the tracks because the rig did not ‘shunt’ the track. The wheels of the vehicle did not make electrical contact, so when the driver came to the crossing, there was no warning for drivers.

The FRA states that this is a common problem. The agency released a new safety recommendation last week in light of William’s death. FRA advised all railroads to review their procedures for how maintenance of way vehicles go through crossings.

The new FRA recommendations note that the crossing activation system is unreliable and all maintenance of way vehicles must approach railroad crossings slowly. However, these are only recommendations and there are no current federal regulations for how these vehicles go through railroad crossings.

Also, the technology that is still used to detect trains today was first designed in 1872, and continues to be used across the country.

Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia are greatly concerned that some maintenance of way vehicles do not properly trigger crossing gates and lights at railroad crossings. It also is alarming that a train engineer in this case apparently neglected his duties and proceeded through a railroad crossing with blatant disregard for safety.

There are cases where a railroad and its employees disregard public safety and should be sued in civil court for damages. This provides a warning to other companies and individuals to always put public safety first. An experienced railroad injury attorney can often win a large financial settlement in cases where the railroad obviously acted in a negligent fashion.