A tractor-trailer driver who caused an accident while leaving the rail yard at the Morton Salt plant in Silver Springs, New York (NY), admitted he was distracted when he ignored warning lights and a lowered gate at tracks on which a Norfolk Southern freight train was being backed up. According to The Daily News, on October 28, 2011, the trucker was “looking down at something in the cab of his truck when he entered the railroad crossing.”
Somehow, the at-fault driver escaped injury when the train hit just behind the truck’s cab, and it appears that no NS crewmembers, rail yard workers or Morton employees got hurt. Such welcome outcomes are rare when truck drivers ignore crossing signals and barriers in industrial yards. In fact, this same Morton facility was the site of a fatal train-truck collision in August 2007.
To cite another incident in which railroad employees were injured and lost their lives in a rail yard crash, a van transporting BNSF workers to a hotel drove into the path of a train at a Kelso, Washington (WA), yard. Three people died, and a another was severely injured.
All drivers must exercise caution when approaching rail crossing, and no one should ever intentionally or unintentionally ignore flashing lights or attempt to beat trains by going around lowered gates. Distractions and overly aggressive driving at grade crossings can be deadly.
My railroad accident attorney colleagues and I have helped many train crew members hurt in crossing accidents and derailments receive compensation for their injuries. Any time a truck or other vehicle blocks a grade crossing, the train may end up going off the tracks as the engineer initiates emergency braking. The huge size of locomotives and rail cars means someone will likely get hurt when collisions occur.