FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Collisions between cars and trains are the greatest source of injuries and fatalities in the railroad industry, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration . Nationwide about 270 deaths occur a year at public and private grade crossings. And now, sadly, six people have died in such an accident in Valhalla, N.Y.
A grade crossing is a location where a public highway, road, street or private roadway crosses railroad tracks at grade, or at the same level as the street. That also includes any associated sidewalks and pathways going over the tracks.
Combined, highway-rail crossing and trespasser deaths account for 95 percent of all rail-related deaths, according to the FRA website. Most of these deaths are avoidable, the FRA said.
Tom Ferraro, co-owner of Tom’s Driving School in Riverside, whose family business has been in operation for more than 65 years, said drivers need to use caution and common sense when crossing railroad tracks.
"I'd like to say you should be able to trust signals, but signals can be faulty," he said.
His advice? Slow your car down when approaching a grade crossing and take a few moments to really look and listen. Approach the track reasonably close so you can see down the tracks in both directions -- but be cautious.
"If one train is coming, it's likely another one will be coming the other way," he said. "It's worth taking a few more minutes to make sure before heading across."
And if your car stalls on the tracks? Get out immediately, run away from the tracks and call the police, he said.
Police may be able to radio ahead to the conductor.
Whatever you do, don't go back in the car. "Why roll the dice?" he said. "It's not worth it."
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