How Do Norfolk Railroad Crossing Accidents Happen?

Railroads are a primary form of public transportation. They are used to transport both people and freight. There are more than 500 rail companies and 210,000 train crossings in the United States. Unfortunately, many railway crossings have no warning signals or lights. These unprotected areas account for more than half of all rail accidents nationwide. If you were injured in a train crossing accident, you are entitled to pursue financial compensation for your injuries and other damages. The experienced Norfolk railroad accident attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can review the details of your accident and help you secure the damages you are entitled to. Call us today to schedule your free consultation. 

Are There Different Types of Train Crossings?

A railroad crossing is an area where a roadway intersects with a train track. There are two distinct types of train crossings: protected and unprotected.

  • Protected crossings: Protected crossings are those equipped with warning systems like lights and gates and lights that warn drivers that a train crossing is present. Only about 20% of all train crossings in the country are protected crossings. 
  • Unprotected crossings: Also called passive crossings, these junctions offer no warnings to approaching motorists other than a railroad crossing sign. In the United States, most train crossings are passive. Data compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board shows that over 50% of all fatal train accidents take place at passive crossings. This statistic underscores the importance of having warning indicators at railroad crossings.  

What Causes of Norfolk Train Crossing Accidents?

A Norfolk train crossing accident is a devastating event that can lead to severe injuries and deaths. Being familiar with the causes of these serious accidents could help drivers avoid them. 

Engineer Error

Engineers who fail to operate trains responsibly are a major cause of railway crossing accidents. Engineers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol pose a major threat to the safety of everyone on the intersecting roadway and on the train. Engineer negligence, such as disregarding the speed limit in order to make up for lost time, and engineers whose focus is not on their job, cause more than their fair share of serious train crashes.   

No or Insufficient Warning Indicators

Railroad crossings that are outfitted with gate arms that have flashing lights and alarms that make noise to warn approaching drivers of a passing train have much lower instances of train crossing accidents. Gate arms that lower before the train passes also help prevent crossing collisions.  A crossing that has no gate arm, or a gate arm with no or defective warning indicators is more likely to see a catastrophic train crossing accident. 

Mechanical Failure 

Whether they are designed to transport people or haul freight, trains are fairly complex machines comprised of numerous moving parts working in tandem. The failure of any one part could lead to issues with the train’s functioning and result in a crash. While not the most common of scenarios, it is not impossible for an essential safety feature or component of a train’s guidance equipment, like a rail switch or rail signal, to malfunction and cause a terrible accident. 

Obstructed Crossings

The driver of a passenger vehicle, truck, or even a motorcycle is more likely to find themselves in the path of an oncoming train if their field of vision is limited due to an obstructed crossing. A stopped train on a set of parallel tracks, for example, or overgrown bushes can obstruct a driver’s vision. If they try to cross without observing an oncoming train, the outcome could be catastrophic. 

Reckless Drivers

Some train crossing collisions occur when reckless drivers knowingly attempt to beat an oncoming train. The slightest miscalculation of the train’s distance from their car could lead to an accident. Trains are large, cumbersome machines and it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for an engineer to stop all of a sudden even if they have noticed the vehicle on the tracks. 

Talk to a Norfolk Railroad Accident Attorney

If you were injured in a railway crossing accident due to engineer error, a lack of warning indicators, or any other form of negligence, contact the Norfolk personal injury law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. We have over 50 years of combined experience helping victims of train crossing accidents, like the $133,000 settlement we secured for this family. Call us at (833) 997-1774 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation. We have offices located in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Hampton. 

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