New effort to stop deadly crashes at railroad crossings

Posted at 3:05 PM, Jan 13, 2017

It seems like common sense to not cross a railroad track if a train is coming. But the Department of Transportation says people aren't getting the message and in the last few years, there has been a spike in the number of people killed in train accidents.

The government is spending $7 million on new ads that will air across the country. It seems like a hefty price tag, but the Federal Railroad Association says despite lighting and rails this is still a problem, so something has to be done.

It's a powerful ad, designed to get people to think twice before crossing a railroad track.

"If you think trains can stop if they see a car on the tracks, you're right," the commercial says. "They will. About a mile after they hit you. Stop. Trains can't."

The "Stop, Trains Can't" campaign is the latest in a two year effort by the Department of Transportation to reduce accidents and ultimately deaths at railroad crossings across the county.

Rail incidents are actually down in the last 10 years. But the DOT says every three hours a person or a vehicle is hit by a train in the United States. And the number of people who died at railroad crossings spiked in 2014. In 2016 alone, 232 people died in railroad crossing incidents.

By law trains always have the right of way because they can't swerve or stop quickly. In fact, the DOT says a freight train traveling 55 miles an hour takes a mile, the length of 18 football fields or more to stop even with the emergency brake on.

The Department of Transportation admits this is an old problem, but they really believe it can be solved and that nearly every death at crossings is preventable.

The ad is targeted toward men ages 18 to 49. That's the group the Federal Railroad Administration has found is more at risk. The ad will air in states where the 15 most dangerous crossings are located and in states that had 75 percent of the crossing accidents that happened in 2015.