Cdot Reminds Motorists to Use Caution at Rail Crossings

Train Track Photo from Pexels, Splitshire

During Rail Safety Week (RSW), Sept. 18-24, the Colorado Department of Transportation reminds motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists always to use caution when approaching rail crossings.

Last year, there were 23 traffic crashes involving trains in Colorado, resulting in seven injuries and two deaths. This is down slightly from 25 crashes the year before.

CDOT has created videos that warn about crossing railroad tracks where there may not be gates or signals, known as passive crossings, to reach the public. Such crossings are common in rural areas of the state. In urban areas, RTD has released its own video on the importance of rail safety.

Every year in North America, 2,100 people are killed or seriously injured around tracks and trains — often at at-grade crossings.

“We all need reminders about railroad crossings, which is why this week is so important,” said Darrell Lingk, Director of the Highway Safety Office at CDOT. “Paying attention to the warning signs at crossing and being on the lookout for trains are simple but life-saving tips that everyone should practice.”

Rail Safety Week graphic featuring tracks, a gate arm and safety messaging. Text overlay reads “Getting home late beats never getting home again. Stop. Trains Can’t.”

Every three hours, a train in the United States hits a person or vehicle. There are active and passive rail crossings in Colorado to prevent such crashes. Passive crossings lack bells, whistles, and gates found with active crossings. Passive crossings, including warning signs, are more common in rural areas with fewer cars. Currently, there are 784 active warning crossings in Colorado and 960 passive ones.

Rail Safety Week graphic featuring a rail crossing on a rural road and safety messaging. Text overlay reads “Rail Safety Week. Know the signs and signals.”

Since 2017, RSW has saved lives by educating and empowering the public to make safe decisions around trains and tracks and raising awareness of the need for rail safety education. This annual week-long event is a collaborative effort among Operation Lifesaver, Inc., state Operation Lifesaver programs, and rail safety partners across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. RSW aims to raise awareness of the need for rail safety education and empower the public to be safe near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights-of-way.

Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a national rail safety education organization, works with the U.S. Department of Transportation and other organizations to observe Rail Safety Week each year. The organization’s  “Stop Track Tragedies” public awareness campaign shows the impact of rail-related incidents on families – and communities. “

Operation Lifesaver works with CDOT to prevent crashes. Upgrades at railroad crossings with warning lights and gates is part of CDOT’s commitment to reducing crashes involving trains.

By law, trains always have the right of way, and avoiding a train collision is the responsibility of the driver, pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcyclist. A train cannot swerve, stop quickly, or change directions to avert a collision. A train traveling at 55 mph requires a mile to stop – the length of more than 17 football fields – after applying the emergency brakes.

 CDOT urges motorists to follow these tips to stay safe at railroad crossings:

∙        When approaching a railroad crossing, slow down, look, and listen for a train on the tracks, especially at passive crossings with no gates or warning signals.

∙        Look carefully in both directions before crossing a rail track, even during the day.

∙        Do not rely on experience to guess when a train is coming. Trains can travel from either direction at any time.

∙        Never race a train. Misjudging a train’s speed and distance from a crossing is easy.

∙        Before entering a railroad crossing, check for enough room on the other side of the tracks for your vehicle to cross completely and safely. Be aware that you may need to cross multiple sets of tracks at some railroad crossings.

∙        Never stop on railroad tracks. Keep moving once you have entered the crossing. To avoid a vehicle stalling, never shift gears on the tracks.

∙        If your vehicle stalls on a railroad track, quickly move away from the track and your vehicle at a 45-degree angle to prevent being hit by debris. Call the phone number on the Emergency Notification System sign or if the character is not visible to you, dial 911 for help.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 2,197 highway-rail grade crossing collisions occurred in 2022, resulting in 274 deaths and 812 injuries across the U.S.

About CDOT

CDOT has approximately 3,000 employees at its Denver headquarters and in regional offices throughout Colorado and manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with other agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, and airports. It also administers Bustang, the state-owned and operated interregional express service. Governor Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s intermodal mobility options.

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