Operation Lifesaver gets $1 million grant

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Preventing collisions at grade crossings is a goal of a $1,025,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit railroad safety education organization.

About 95 percent of all railroad fatalities in the United States each year are caused by collisions at grade crossings and by trespassing on tracks.

Twenty percent of truck-train collisions result in a train derailment, and more than half those collisions take place at public crossings already equipped with flashing lights and bells, according to a 2003 report by Operation Lifesaver of Canada. Property damage from each collision often exceeds millions of dollars.

According to Operation Lifesaver, an 80,000-pound truck pulling a 53-foot trailer on a level road with good surface conditions requires at least 14 seconds to clear a single railroad track and more than 15 seconds to clear a double track. At 6,000 tons, a fully loaded freight train carrying 100 cars at 55 miles per hour requires a mile or more to stop.

“Far too often, preventable tragedies occur because motorists and pedestrians ignore the dangers of grade crossings at railroad tracks,” said FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman. “Increased public knowledge will result in more people making the right safety decisions around the rails.”

Operation Lifesaver’s tips for commercial vehicles for stopping and crossing safely at highway-rail intersections:

  • Stop no closer than 15 feet and no farther than 50 from the nearest rail.
  • Check for traffic behind you while stopping gradually. Use a pull-out lane, if available.
  • Turn on four-way flashers; leave on until following traffic has stopped safely.
  • To better hear the train, roll down the window and turn off the stereo and fans.
  • While stopped, look carefully in each direction for approaching trains, moving head and eyes to see around obstructions such as mirrors and windshield pillars.
  • Before resuming, make sure there is enough room on the other side of the tracks for the whole unit to clear the tracks, including overhang.
  • Use the highest gear that will allow you to cross the tracks without shifting.
  • If the red lights begin to flash after you start over the tracks, keep going. Lights should begin flashing at least 20 seconds before the train arrives at crossing.
  • Hazmat trucks must stop at every intersection.
  • Easily stuck on the tracks are low-slung units such as lowboys, car carriers, moving vans and possum-belly livestock trailers. Also easily stuck are single-axle tractors pulling long trailers with landing gear set to accommodate a tandem-axle tractor.
  • If you get stuck on the tracks, get out of the truck and away from the tracks; check signposts or signal housing at the crossing for emergency notification information; and call 911 and give the location of the crossing using all identifiable landmarks, especially the DOT number if posted.