In 2015 almost 250 individuals in America lost their lives because of very preventable circumstances. They were hit and killed by a train while trying to cross the tracks in a vehicle. That is a fact that is simply amazing to me. I understand we sometimes get impatient at railroad crossings waiting for a long train to pass. But is it really worth risking your life to save a few minutes?

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is bringing more attention to the dangers of ignoring railroad crossing bars, signals, and other obvious signs that a train is approaching a crossing. The "Don't Stop on the Tracks" is designed to remind motorist to do just that, or should it be don't do that? Regardless, don't stop your car on the darn train tracks. Also, make sure you've completely cleared the tracks once you've crossed them.

Louisiana ranks fourth in the nation in railroad fatalities all of those did not have to happen. Some were caused when a motorist attempted to beat the train across the tracks other incidents occurred when a motorist stopped their vehicle either on or too close to the tracks for the train to safely pass.

Most rail crossings have a large white line painted on the pavement. It's advised that all motorist stop behind that white line when they see or there are signals that a train is about to pass.  This should give drivers enough space between the train and the front of their vehicles. Don't forget this applies to the back side of your vehicle once you've crossed the tracks.

If you've ever wondered the standard width of most railroad tracks in the United States is 4 feet, 8 and 1/2 inches. I know it's an odd number and there is a unique story as to how that gauge came to be. Certainly, there are other railroad lines that use a different gauge but for the most part, a little over four and a half feet is the benchmark.

The standard train extends outward at least an additional 3 to 4 feet. That means the train is a lot wider than you think. That's why you need that 15-foot buffer between your vehicle and the train. This isn't horseshoes you don't want to be closest to the train.

The bottom line is this, the train can only cross the road in one place. You might as well be careful about crossing the tracks in that one place. That includes obeying all signals and looking both ways before you cross regardless of what the signal says. Remember, your life could depend on it.


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