Despite Flashing Lights, Trucks and Trains Still Manage to Collide

Despite Flashing Lights, Trucks and Trains Still Manage to CollideWhen you are impatient for a train to pass, it can seem like an eternity waiting for those cars to go by. Sometimes it even seems like the lights begin to flash and the barrier goes down without a train in view for miles. But you still respect the roadway crossing gate because you recognize the significant damage that can happen when a train hits any other object.

The unidentified driver in Wisconsin avoided a fatal accident when his vehicle, pulling a trailer, was struck by a train. The train was going far below its full speed – only 10 mph, and only pulling three cars –making the force behind the accident far less than a fully laden train. Experts on site estimated the train’s weight at 50,000 lbs. The truck’s driver escaped any injuries, but the truck, trailer, and nearby fences all were damaged, bearing testament to the potentially deadly mathematic equation of mass x acceleration = force. The more mass involved, even at a slow speed, the greater the force of impact and the more potential for perilous outcomes.

Trains cannot swerve

There are a few reasons that we hear about commercial truck accidents involving trains so frequently. Trains cannot quickly slow their speed or stop all forward motion without long-range planning, often requiring over a mile to stop from full speed. Complicating this situation is the fact that big-rigs which are disabled or inadvertently put in the path of a train can be slower to start when they are off, slower to begin moving, and nearly impossible to move if incapacitated. They cannot quickly remove themselves from danger, nor can they be easily pushed out of peril by bystanders.

Truck safety and train crossings

Because of their long stopping distance, trains always have the right of way. Trains also often appear to be further away and moving more slowly than they really are, due to their large size. Particularly for commercial truck drivers, who may not be considering the increased length of their vehicle, trying to “beat” a train across a track is not only unsafe – it is also illegal. If lights are flashing, a crossing gate is lowered, or a train whistle (or the train itself) is emitting an audible signal within 1320 feet, drivers are obligated to stop between 15-50 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad, according to North Dakota law. Many drivers mistakenly believe it is safe to cross the tracks after one train has passed, even if lights are still flashing or a barrier is down; however, a different train very well may be coming on the opposite track. If you are in a truck that has stalled or become stuck on a train track when a train is coming, get out of the vehicle quickly and get as far away as possible to avoid being injured by flying debris from the collision.

If you have been the victim of an accident involving a train, or if a family member has been injured in one of these accidents, we strongly recommend that you call the Larson Law Firm today at 701-484-HURT, or fill out our contact form, to talk with a personal injury attorney about your legal rights. If you are incapacitated by your injuries we can come to see you personally, in the hospital or at home.


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