How many of you reading this post can say that you look both ways when you cross railroad tracks in an automobile? I do a lot of driving where I work. There is a railroad crossing that I frequently traverse when I am driving for work. The visibility in either direction down the tracks is restricted by buildings that are adjacent to the railroad tracks and to the road that crosses the tracks. I am fascinated watching the drivers who cross over the tracks ahead of me. I rarely see a vehicle slow down and I have never seen the driver look both ways before continuing across the tracks. Everyone is apparently putting their faith in the mechanical arms and warning signals to tell them of an approaching train.
After seeing the aftermath of the collision between the gravel tractor-trailer rig and the Amtrak California Zephyr in Nevada a few days ago, it made me think how most everyone is entrusting their lives to the mechanical signal equipment at railroad crossings. I’m not suggesting that a signal malfunction had anything to do with the collision in Nevada. But, considering the force generated by several locomotives and several dozen railroad cars, why would anyone trust a mechanical device to tell them when it is safe to cross railroad tracks?
Think about this the next time you cross railroad tracks in your automobile. At what point can you see down the tracks in both directions to ensure it is safe to cross? In the situations where there is limited visibility until you are about to cross the tracks, it will only require you to slow to about 20 MPH to get a good look. Once you start looking both ways, you’ll wonder how you ever crossed before without looking.