Even though train accidents and deaths have decreased significantly in the last 10 years, the reduction is mostly from control over the trains themselves — things like stopping trains from speeding and derailing. None of the improvements made so far can prevent injuries and deaths that are the product of mechanical failure and human error. The vast majority of railroad deaths today involve trespassers on the tracks — everything from pedestrians walking the rails to cars that cross into the path of an oncoming train.
The recent accident in Biloxi that injured 35 and killed four, for example, involved a tourist bus that was stuck on the tracks when it was hit by an oncoming train. Investigators are questioning whether or not the bus driver had begun to immediately evacuate the passengers from the stalled vehicle as required under federal law.
What steps should a commercial bus driver take to protect passengers from railroad dangers?
— Plan the route to avoid as many railroad crossings as possible.
— Slow the bus well ahead of a crossing and stop somewhere between 15 and 50 feet from the tracks.
— Turn off the radio, air conditioning, or other devices that could obscure sounds and open the window to listen for an oncoming train.
— Look both ways for a train, twice.
— Never shift gears while on the tracks, because that can cause the engine to stall in the process.
— Never stop the bus while crossing train tracks. If a crossing gate begins to lower while in the middle of crossing, the bus should continue forward even if it means breaking the gate.
— If the bus stalls on the tracks, the driver should immediately begin evacuating passengers.
— Look for the emergency phone number for the railroad that’s posted near the crossing and call it. Then notify local police.
— If a train is in sight, instruct passengers to move toward the train, on either side of the tracks at an assured clear distance. That minimizes the chances they’ll be struck by debris from the collision with the bus.
Studies show that many bus drivers are poorly trained regarding railroad safety procedures, which increases the chances of unnecessary injuries on the tracks. If you’ve been victimized due to a bus driver’s failure to follow safety recommendations, consider contacting an attorney for a consultation today.
Source: Impact Recovery Systems, “Railroad Crossing Safety for Commercial Vehicles,” accessed March 15, 2017