Train Crossing Accidents—The Principal Causes
In the wake of a horrific crash at a train crossing in New York in early February that left six people dead, people across the country have expressed renewed concerns about the effectiveness of train crossing warning mechanisms, as well as the safety of train travel in general.
According to statistics compiled by the federal government, more than 2,400 people are either killed or seriously injured in crashes at railroad crossings every year. Though the numbers are down dramatically from their peak in the 80s and early 90s, there has been no meaningful decline in railroad crossing collisions for the past decade and a half.
The Principal Causes of Train Crossing Accidents
According to the data gathered by the Federal Train Administration, the two most common causes of train-motor vehicle accidents at railroad crossings are:
- A driver tries to beat the train to the crossing and misjudges either the speed of the train or the distance that must be traveled. This is caused by a number of factors. Studies show that larger objects appear to be moving slower than they actually are. In addition, when your eyes focus on the road in front of you, they don’t do a good job of registering movement along the periphery.
- A driver fails to see the warning. Safety experts contend that the lights that are typically used in railroad crossing signs have narrow beams and are frequently not properly adjusted to best be seen by motorists. In addition, their output is low to begin with and is further dissipated by the red glass cover. Furthermore, sunlight tends to wash out the warning lights, a factor supported by statistics that show that most railroad crossing accidents occur during daylight hours.
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