Few road accidents are more terrifying than when a train and passenger vehicle collide at a railroad crossing. Any driver involved in one of these accidents could take the blame, as authorities may believe the driver ignored warning lights and signs before they began to cross the tracks. However, negligence by the railroad company also occurs.
Because of the speed and severity of an accident like this, drivers may struggle to remember the details of the event. Some may have traumatic injuries or feel responsible for any loss of life of passengers in their vehicles. You should hire a lawyer and wait for an investigation before accepting responsibility because there are many variables in train/vehicle accidents.
Rates Have Declined
The frequency of railway crossing accidents has declined over the last few decades. In 1981, over 9,400 collisions of this type took place. In 2018, there were just over 2,200 rail crossing accidents. Public service announcements that war drivers of the dangers of crossing the tracks when a train is on the way may have helped, but the credit also goes to the technology upgrades on the trains.
Some trains now have warning systems installed that notify the engineer if the warning gates or other safety devices are not working properly at an upcoming crossing. The devices can stop the train or activate a horn to warn of the train’s approach even if the engineer does not react to the warning system.
Accidents Still Occur
Despite many upgrades, trains and passenger vehicles still collide occasionally. The problems may occur in areas where upgrades have not taken place or when equipment failure on the train or tracks occurs. Accidents can happen because of poor train maintenance, a lack of care for the train tracks, or a failure to have visible road signage at crossings.
Something as simple as leaves or other plant matter on the tracks could prevent sensors from identifying a passing train. Any obstruction of the sensors means the warning lights and gates at the crossing will not activate. Vegetation can also obstruct the view of drivers at crossings without gates or warning lights.
Sometimes, the approach of the train triggers the warning gates and lights too late. On busy roadways, vehicles can become trapped on the tracks because of traffic. Accidents have occurred in the past when people became trapped on the tracks as a train approached because the warning system began too late for the traffic to clear.
Responsibility Can Vary
The railway company usually is at fault when an accident happens because of a failure of the train conductor to operate responsibly or a mechanical failure takes place with the train. The railway company or a state or local agency could be to blame for accidents caused by problems with the signage at the crossing, or a lack of maintenance of the rail lines.
Other drivers could also cause a car/train accident at a crossing. A driver may not notice the stopped vehicle at the crossing and strike the vehicle from behind, forcing them on the tracks. Poor maintenance of icy or snow-covered roads may have prevented vehicles from stopping safely at the crossing, so the liability for the accident may include state or local road crews.
Train accidents need a full investigation into everything involved before there is any assessment of responsibility. Contact a lawyer if you experienced a train accident or lost loved ones in an accident of this type because of what you believe was the negligence of someone else. At The Jaklitsch Law Group, we do all we can to protect the rights of accident victims.