Motorists urged to practice caution at rail crossings


In case you’ve missed it — and we don’t see how you could — in recent weeks, CSX Transportation and the Louisville & Indiana railroads have begun moving more trains through Seymour each day.

Those trains also seem to be longer and faster as promised by the two railroads on the 106½-mile north-south line that splits the city nearly in half.

While the additional trains mean more delays for motorists, they also pose safety issues at many of the 13 crossings in the Seymour area.

Just one of those crossings has automatic arms, and that’s on Tipton Street (U.S. 50).

Many drivers, however, pay little or no attention at rail crossings they drive across day after day because they never see a train there, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

According to Indiana Crash Facts 2016, published by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, there were 356 railroad crossing crashes that year, including five fatalities and 66 that left motorists injured.

The department offers the following safety tips in an effort to help save lives:

  • Remember trains do not run on set schedules. They can be on any track, at any time, going in either direction.
  • Always yield the right of way to the train. The train cannot yield to you. More than half of all motor vehicle-train collisions occur at crossings equipped with the automatic signals. It’s because some drivers choose to drive around the gates or through the flashing red lights because they believe they can beat the train or they assume a stopped train has activated the signals or the signals are malfunctioning.
  • Never ignore active warnings at crossings.
  • Trains will arrive at a crossing faster than you anticipate.
  • Look and listen when you see advance warning signs indicating a rail-highway crossing.
  • Don’t get trapped on railroad crossings.
  • Before starting across the tracks, be sure there’s room to get completely across.
  • When running away from a vehicle stuck on tracks, run away from the tracks at an angle in the direction of the approaching train.
  • Stay off railroad property and stay safe. Railroad tracks, service roads and right of way are private property, and only people authorized by the railroads can be on that property.

City officials have identified at least three crossings that are a particular cause for concern: Fifth Street, Seventh Street and Bruce Street or South Street. They are pursuing funding with the idea of putting up crossing arm gates and lights at some crossings, especially at Sixth Street, with an eye toward possibly closing other crossings.

While there has yet to be a vehicle hit by a train in Seymour because of the increase in trains, it happened in Johnson County three times in one day a couple of weeks ago.

To be fair to the railroads, it’s kind of hard not to know a train is approaching a crossing considering the engineer has such a loud horn at his disposal, but it never hurts to practice a little caution.

While it is impossible for the railroads to make every interchange completely accident proof, we would urge them to do more. We are already dealing with massive inconveniences and interruptions to our businesses and neighborhoods. Ignoring interchanges with significant safety risks is unacceptable.

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