Contact: Amaya Smith
AAJ objects to Federal Highway Administration’s one size fits all approach to railroad crossings
Washington, DC—The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has proposed a dangerous blanket policy to require yield or stop signs at every railroad crossing in America. On the surface this plan may seem like a smart safety measure, but it flies in the face of credible research which shows that stop signs often cause more accidents at railroad crossings.
The American Association for Justice (AAJ) today filed comments objecting to this dangerous proposal that would also allow negligent railroad corporations to deny wrongdoing.
“Railroad crossing accidents while often fatal are usually preventable,” said AAJ President Les Weisbrod. “Americans don’t need new regulations that make crossings less safe and give railroad corporations a free pass on safety. We urge the Federal Highway Administration to scrap this dangerous proposal for one that takes into account the various safety needs at railroad crossings around the country.”
Tens of thousands of Americans approach a variety of railroad crossings every day. FHWA’s plan would propose a “one size fits all” method for addressing safety at these crossings. Research has found that collisions are more likely to occur at highway-rail crossings with stop signs than with any other warning system. A stop sign is a considered a “passive” warning as opposed to gates and flashing lights which are considered “active” warning systems.
Below are tragic examples of how stop signs often provide inadequate warning at rail-crossings:
- On November 13, 1997, Alabama resident Terrence Terrell Rogers drove his car through a railroad crossing maintained by CSX Corporation. He was struck and killed by a CSX train. At the time he was killed, no automatic gate or other active warning device guarded the crossing. Instead, passive warning devices consisting of crossbucks, stop signs, and various road markings were in place. Two years before, the state entered into an agreement with CSX to add additional gates, bells and a motion detector, and requested that CSX begin work to install these additional warning devices. However, CSX did not begin installation of these active warning devices until two weeks after Rogers’ death.
- On January 13, 2000, Indiana resident Sheryl Bechard drove her car through a railroad crossing maintained by CSX Corporation. She was struck by an Amtrak train causing her serious injuries and killing her daughter Kacie, who was a passenger in the vehicle. This terrible incident occurred although stop signs were clearly visible and there had been a prior death at this location.
- On December 14, 2005, Utah resident David Miller’s semitrailer truck collided with an Amtrak train at a railroad crossing, killing him and injuring several train passengers. The crossing was marked with crossbucks and stop signs. In this situation, the train was approaching a large bend at approximately 60 mph. From the stop sign position, the truck driver was unable to see more than 700 feet down the track due to terrain obstructions, but the driver needs 1440 feet of visibility in order to safely negotiate the crossing. The truck traveled about two-thirds of the way through the crossing when it was hit by the Amtrak train.
In each of these cases, the crossings were equipped with stop signs and other passive warning devices. Yet, in each situation, the driver was struck and severely injured or killed where it was clear that active warning devices should be used. The FHWA will endanger more Americans if it mandates the indiscriminate placement of yield or stop signs at all crossings without engineering analysis.