“Any Time Is Train Time,” So Watch Out!

Trains might seem like a thing of the past, associated with classic western movies or old-timey circus memories. And while passenger trains aren’t as common as they used to be, trains are still very much in use across the United States. According to Federal Railroad Administration, the freight train network consists of 140,000 rail miles and over 500 local or regional railroads. It contributes to over 400 million in revenue every year. Passenger trains are still a formidable mode of transportation — in Florida alone, people travel over 2 million miles per year on Amtrak, which has stops in major cities like Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami. So while it may be uncommon to hear a train whistle or get stopped at the railroad tracks, it’s still a possibility. This means that Americans shouldn’t slack off on learning about safety around trains and train tracks.

Preventing Train Deaths

The number of train accidents in the United States has definitely decreased in recent years. In 2000, there were 3,502 vehicle-train collisions. By 2016, the number dropped to 2,025. From these collisions in 2016, there were 265 fatalities and 798 injuries. While derailment is a potential danger, the majority of train-involved accidents occur at rail crossings, and involve a non-train vehicle. Obviously, vehicle-train collisions are particularly dangerous for the smaller vehicle: a motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than they are in a collision with another vehicle.

Before The Tracks

These fatal accidents are easily avoided. Drivers should look out for signs that signal an upcoming railroad. The most common of these signs is the crossbuck sign. It forms an x shape that alerts drivers to the railroad tracks. Near the tracks, there will also be flashing lights and a gate. When these lights are flashing red and the gates are lowered,  a train is approaching. When the light is red and the gates are down, come to a full stop before the gates. Wait until the train passes. Only move forward once the lights are green and the gate goes up.

Certain vehicles are required to stop at all train tracks, even if a train is nowhere in sight. These vehicles include:

  • School buses
  • Any bus carrying passengers
  • Any vehicle carrying an explosive substance
  • Tractors, steam rollers, or any other vehicle that has an operation speed of 10 MPH or less

Never try to go around the gates to cross in front of a train! Trains move a lot faster than you think, and can appear more suddenly and quietly than you would expect. A train also takes up to a mile to stop. It can’t simply slam on their brakes to avoid hitting you.

On The Tracks

In the scary event that your car stalls on the railroad tracks, get out of the vehicle immediately, even if there are no warning lights that signal the approach of a train. If a train approaches, get away from the tracks and run in the direction of the oncoming train. When the train strikes your vehicle, there will be glass and other debris. Running in the direction of the train decreases your chances of getting hit by your own vehicle.

No Trespassing

As a pedestrian, you should follow similar rules. Do not attempt to go around gates or red lights, and never walk on a railroad track. Even if you are near, but not on, the train tracks, use caution. Don’t wear headphones, because you will need to hear if a train is approaching. You should also remember that train tracks are technically private property, and walking on them is considered trespassing.

You might go months without ever seeing a train, but these safety tips are critical to remember. Even though it may not seem like it, “any time is train time,” so watch out for those red lights, gates, and train horns.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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