Train – Vehicle Collisions at Crossings, and Pedestrian Incidents Lower in 2007

Incidents in Wisconsin involving pedestrians struck by trains and vehicle—train collisions at crossings were lower for the second year in a row, with incidents reported in 2007 significantly below the 2005 levels.


“This good news is a direct result of the ongoing safety partnership among federal, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, traffic safety organizations and rail companies,” said Jim Tracey, state coordinator for Wisconsin Operation Lifesaver at the state Department of Transportation.  “In addition, this year for the first time, Wisconsin dropped off the list of the top 15 states for these incidents.”


In Wisconsin, the 2007 statistics are: 59 vehicle–train collisions at public and private grade crossings, resulting in 3 fatalities and 22 injuries.  Those numbers are a great improvement over the high in 2005, when Wisconsin experienced 84 collisions, 13 fatalities and 20 injuries.  The numbers don’t include pedestrian incidents, which in 2007 totaled 4 fatalities and 3 injuries.


Last year, 486 pedestrians were killed nationwide along railroad tracks, compared with 518 in 2006, according to preliminary statistics issued by the Federal Railroad Administration.  The number of pedestrians injured declined also, from 472 in 2006, to 393 in 2007.  Total vehicle–train collisions at highway–rail grade crossings fell from 2,931 in 2006, to 2,728 in 2007.  These resulted in 339 fatalities (30 fewer than in 2006) and 986 injuries (down 61 from 2006). 


The number of pedestrians killed in rail-related incidents each year continues to exceed deaths resulting from vehicle–train collisions. 


Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit rail safety education organization. Operation Lifesaver’s mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway–rail grade crossings and on rail property through a nationwide network of volunteers who work to educate people about rail safety. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation supports the organization through its rail safety efforts.




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Highway-Rail Grade Crossings – Seven Steps for Safety


  1. Approach crossing with care.  Slow down when you see an Advanced Warning Sign.


  1. Prepare to stop.  Turn off fans and radio, roll down windows; look and listen for a train.


  1. Stop at least 15 feet from nearest train track, but not more than 50 feet, if you see a train.


  1. If it won’t fit, don’t commit.  Trains extend beyond the width of the tracks at least 3 feet on each side. If your vehicle has a trailer, remember the additional length.


  1. Double check before you move – look in both directions.


  1. Cross tracks with care. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, use a gear that will not require shifting until you reach the opposite side.


  1. Keep going once you start, even if lights start to flash or gates come down.



If your vehicle stalls or hangs up on the tracks:


  1. Get out immediately – evacuate your vehicle. (Trains traveling at 55 mph may take a mile or more to stop.)


  1. Move away at once. Walk in the direction of the oncoming train, and away from the tracks at a 45-degree angle. (If your vehicle is hit, debris will spread out from the tracks in the same direction the train is moving.)


  1. Locate the emergency phone number. When you are safely away from the tracks, find the railroad’s emergency phone number and the DOT crossing identification number posted near the crossing.



Pedestrian Rail Safety Tips


1.       Trains can move in either direction at any time. Trains are sometimes pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled. This is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.


  1. Modern trains are quieter than ever, with no telltale “clickety-clack.” Also, an approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think.


  1. Cross tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.


  1. Never walk down a train track; it’s illegal and it’s dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer can see a trespasser or a vehicle on the tracks, it is too late. The train cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.


  1. Remember: Rail tracks and recreation do not mix!