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According to data released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a person or motor vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the United States. In the 2014 alone, there were 2,280 collisions with trains and other cars and trucks, resulting in 267 fatalities.
Some of the most horrific collisions occur when a tractor trailer and a train collide at highway-rail grade crossings. Recent statistics report that tractor-trailer and train collisions occur at a rate of 300 per year.
The sheer weight and speed of a moving train and tractor-trailer can cause grave consequences for those involved in a collision. Serious injuries and fatalities are common in these types of accidents, not only for the passengers on the train or in the truck, but also for those who are driving or standing near the scene of the accident.
Oftentimes a train-truck collision will send metal and other debris flying in all directions. Residents living near highway-rail grade crossings risk serious injury or even death when these accidents occur.
Truck Drivers are the First Line of Defense
Industry officials have worked hard to improve railway safety, and agree that tractor-trailer drivers are the first line of defense for improving truck accident statistics. Truck drivers are generally good citizens, following the laws and regulations of the road, especially when approaching a railway crossing. Seldom do these drivers risk a collision by driving around a safety gate or ignoring warning signals.
What commonly happens in most collisions is that the truck driver overestimates the amount of space he has for clearing the track, especially in situations where traffic becomes backed up. When he doesn’t clear the track and a train comes barreling down, the collision is inevitable.
Distracted driving, or what industry officials refer to as inattention blindness, can also lead to dangerous truck accidents. Even talking on hands-free cell phones can be enough of a distraction to cause a serious collision. Proper training on how to safely approach and cross a highway/railway crossing, along with incentives for safe driving records, and tighter restrictions on CDL licensing, can also help improve the safety of all those on the road.
Some suggest that safety training be directed at spouses and family members so that they can reinforce the safety protocols with their loved one at home. Any reduction in the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from train and trucking accidents is a step in the right direction.