Drivers Ed with Debbie: Railroad Crossing Safety


You're driving along and you come up on a railroad crossing.  If there's a train, you stop right?  Should be a no-brainer. 

But according to Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization that promotes rail safety, about every three hours, a person or a vehicle is struck by a train.

This makes knowing what to do when you come up on one of these grade crossings extremely important.

First there are two types of rail or grade crossings in Wisconsin.  Active and Passive.

"The passive crossings don't have the lights or the gates. They're found more in rural areas." says Suzie Klinger, Executive Director of Operation Lifesaver.

Active crossings are the ones with the bells, gates and lights.

And if you're wondering about those train horns, it's federal law for trains to sound their horn whenever coming up to a public rail crossing. The only exception to that is if a municipality has established a federally regulated "Quiet Zone".

So when you come up on a crossing, here's what you should do.

"You always want to approach with care to the crossings.  You want to turn down your radio, maybe crack your window a bit and just see if you can hear the train at all." says Klinger

And there are certain laws on the approach you need to remember.
Klinger explains, "Note that if you're within 100 ft of the tracks, it is illegal to pass, even if there is not double yellow lines, it is illegal"

Obviously, don't cross if the gates, lights and bells are activated, even if you don't see a train, Never stop while on the tracks,  and please, don't try to beat a train... this is not Grand Theft Auto.

Violating posted signs at a grade crossing ranges from 3 to 6 points and up to $1000 for the first offense, up to $3000 for the second. 

For more information about railroad crossing safety, you can visit Operation Lifesaver's website.

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