Editorial: Use extra caution around rail lines

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2018

In light of Rail Safety Week and recent crashes involving trains and motorists in the area, we raise awareness about the importance of safety around railroad tracks — whether you are a pedestrian or a motorist.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, there are about 45 crashes at railroad crossings each year in Minnesota, five of which involve fatalities. The chance of death or serious injury from a crash with a motor vehicle and train is 11 times greater than for other highway collisions.

To encourage safety, MnDOT and nonprofit Operation Lifesaver offer the following tips. Operation Lifesaver works to educate community groups about rail safety.

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• Expect a train at any times. Always be alert because trains can run any time of day or night.

• Don’t misjudge the speed and distance of a train. Trains are closer and faster than you may think.

• Remember trains can’t stop quickly or swerve. After fully applying the brakes, a loaded freight train traveling 55 mph takes a mile or more to stop.

• Stop and wait when gates are down or lights are flashing. It’s the law to stop when you see the gates come down. Wait until the gates go up to proceed.

• Stay off of tracks on foot. They are private property.

• Never drive onto a railroad crossing until you’re sure you can clear the tracks on the other side without stopping. If your car stalls or is stuck on the tracks, get everyone out right away, regardless of whether you see a train coming.