What to Do In an Uncontrolled Railroad Crossing

You ever watch those old western movies where bandits on horses rob a train? These days, those are not the dangers you’ll encounter in trains. But accidents still happen with cars and trains.

Train tracks are still all over the continental USA. Some of them have barriers to protect cars. What to do in an uncontrolled railroad crossing?

Different Types Of Railroad Crossing

The Level Crossing with Automatic Half-Gates

About 20 seconds before a train arrives, the red lights start flashing and the buzzer sounds. At this moment, the barriers are lowered. It is therefore natural to stop and wait for the barriers to be removed.

The Barrier-Free Crossing

In these cases, priority is given to the train because its stopping distance can reach 500 meters. Therefore, it is advisable not to commit, before having verified that no train arrives.

The Crossing with Manual Barriers

Extremely rare, manual crossings require the presence of an SNCF agent, to lower and raise the barrier.

What to do in an Uncontrolled Railroad Crossing?

At an uncontrolled railroad crossing, follow these rules:

  • At 90 km / h, it takes 800 m for a train to stop
  • The stopping distance of a train is 10 times greater than that of a vehicle.
  • On a railway line, even if a train has just passed, a second one can come at any time.

The Safety Rules to Respect for Motorists:

  • When approaching a railway crossing, slow down and check if your vehicle can cross the railway safely
  • The presence of a level crossing is systematically announced
  • Never stop on the train tracks
  • The Highway Code gives top priority to trains
  • Cross the railway only if you are sure you can clear the crossing quickly, especially if the road is congested

In Front Of a Level Crossing with Barriers:

  • Stop before the crossing as soon as the lights flash
  • After the train has passed, wait for the gates to fully open to restart

In Front Of a Level Crossing without Barriers:

  • Stop at the STOP sign and check, before crossing the railway that no train arrives. One train can hide another.
  • When approaching a train, stop before the crossing. If a train arrives, it cannot stop
  • When you wait for a train to pass: patience!
  • The waiting time at a railway crossing never exceeds a few minutes

If You Are Immobilized On a Railway

  • Disengage your vehicle by pushing the barrier. It is designed to not resist this type of shock
  • Evacuate all persons from the vehicle
  • Alert the SNCF agent as quickly as possible with the crossing phone

Safety Rules to Respect for Cyclists and Pedestrians:

  • Do not get too close to the tracks;
  • Do not walk along the tracks;
  • Cyclists, dismount alongside the tracks.
  • In case of non-compliance with the safety rules, you risk your life and that of others.

Level Crossing Hazards

Always remember that trains cannot stop as quickly as cars do. In fact, the inertia of a train is such that it takes several hundred meters to stop. The risk of a crossing is a function of the intensity of traffic on the railway and on the road.

An assessment of this risk is made by calculating the “traffic time” which is the product of the number of trains by the number of road vehicles borrowing on average per day the crossing.

Today, we know that we should not install a level crossing on the high density and high speed communication axes because the risks become too great. Indeed, despite the barriers the risk of a collision cannot be avoided, a car may for example be blocked on the tracks or force the passage.

Automatic Crossing Signal

In general, given the mass ratio between a railway convoy and a road vehicle, the risk is essentially on the road side. However, serious consequences for rail traffic can occur in the event of a collision with a lorry, especially if it is loaded with dangerous or flammable materials.

Almost all crossing accidents are attributable to non-compliance with road signs. The design of the automatic installations of level crossings gives them reliability that is rarely implicated in accidents.

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