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Norfolk Southern Train and Van Collide in Claremont, NC, Highlighting Private Rail Crossing Dangers

A home medical equipment delivery van driver suffered serious injuries when his vehicle was hit by a Norfolk Southern train at a private railroad crossing in Claremont, North Carolina (NC). The collision occurred shortly after 1 pm on March 26, 2012, near the intersection of Sherlock Street and Old Catawba Road. The van driver is expected to recover, and no NS workers aboard the freight train were hurt in the crash.

Sherlock Street is a privately owned dirt lane lined with homes. Currently, the crossing where the accident occurred is marked and controlled only by crossbucks and stop signsNeither Norfolk Southern nor the NC transportation department is required by law to install gates at private crossing, but neighbors have expressed their desire for the safety devices.

As the above video shows, the NS engineer told the Hickory Daily News that the van driver did not slow down before driving into the path of the oncoming train. Additionally, because the driver admitted he saw the train and thought he could beat it, the injured man may be charged with violating traffic laws --  a not-entirely undeserved criminal insult added to his physical injuries.

Regardless of his fault in causing the crossing accident, the van driver and everyone traveling on Sherlock Road deserve better warnings and protections. As a North Carolina personal injury attorney whose firm has helped victims of railroad accidents, I know that even private rail crossings must be marked and controlled in ways that give drivers, pedestrians and train crews the best chances for avoiding collisions.

Private rail crossings do not get equipped with warning lights and automatic gates largely because installing and maintaining those safety devices will cost a railroad, track owner, state, city, county, business or property owner money. Focusing on the bottom line, the people who would be on the hook for paying to make a given private crossing safer always seem to disregard the infinitely greater value of a train accident victim's life and health.

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