A View From The Cab: Railroad Crossing Safety

Most of the time we don't give them a second thought, but when we're behind the wheel, railroad crossings need to have our attention.

The basic idea is pretty simple. If you see a locomotive coming down the track, don't cross in front of a train because it could be disastrous, even if you think it's moving slowly.

“They cross over it every day and don't think about it,” says David Starkjohann with Operation Lifesaver. “You get so complacent like walking into the front door of your house. You know the trash can might be right there and your set your keys on the counter, but you don't think about it.”

Paying attention could save your life. Union Pacific took a passenger train out for ride on Wednesday to help increase awareness of train crossing safety. Among the passengers were members of the Norfolk Fire Division who’ve worked the scenes of auto/train collisions, but wanted to gain some perspective from those who work inside the cab.

“It's a frightening experience for those guys,” says Randy Vesley with the Norfolk Fire Division. “For the engineers and for the employees of the train, to realize that if somebody gets in their way and they're going to hit them, there's nothing they can do to stop it.”

In the cab, the speedometer read 49 mph, but sitting at a crossing it's tough to judge the speed of a train. “It might look like it's only moving 10 mph and you try to beat it, you realize that train is actually bearing down on you at 50 mph,” says Starkjohann.

That fast moving freight train could weigh as much as six million pounds. When you compare the weight of a train to the weight of a vehicle, it's like comparing the weight of a vehicle to the weight of a pop can.

So the next time you approach a railroad crossing, pay attention and never take a train for granted. When traveling at 55 mph, a fully-loaded freight train needs the length of 18 football fields to come to a complete stop.

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