North Carolina (NC) has the dubious honor of being ranked in the top-15 states for railroad crossing collisions/accidents. There have been 69 car-rail crossing accidents in North Carolina (NC) this year. In addition, over the past decade, there have been more than 30,000 railroad crossing accidents and more than 3,600 train accident deaths. Sixty-four percent of all railroad wrecks occurred in the top-15 crossing collision states.
In response to this ranking, North Carolina transportation officials are revising their railroad crossings to determine how they can improve overall safety. It’s extremely important for North Carolina to have the most up-to-date railroad crossings and safety procedures due to criss-crossing of railroad tracks in the state owned and/or used by railroad companies such as CSX, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern traveling through the Tar Heel State. It’s also necessary since there have been three fatal rail accidents (locations: Efland, Durham, and Kannapolis NC) in the past two months. Two of these railroad track crossing wrecks caused the deaths of small children and caused serious injury to others, including drivers of their cars or trucks.
So how can North Carolina improve their railroad crossings and reduce the frequency of injuries and even wrongful deaths? The most important step they can take is to perform a thorough examination of their rail crossing signals, lights, gates and stop-arms to ensure all are working properly and if any improvements can be made. It is well known that electronic warnings-which begin in advance of the train arriving at the crossing, are far safer than “passive” warnings (simple signs), but there are obvious higher costs/expenses to implementing “active” warnings at railroad crossings.
Another important step is to confront the railroad companies, like CSX and Norfolk Southern and request an overhaul of their entire safety practices. The state is not exclusively responsible for these deaths at rail-highway crashes and the railroads share in the responsibility in many crossing wrecks, because safety steps must begin long before a crash occurs. Railroad companies realize they must evaluate the amount of traffic crossing any crossing over a roadway, and they are constantly getting feedback from their engineers and conductors, especially if there are what are called “near misses.”
Trains have long stopping distances and are not capable of any quick stops. Therefore, advance warnings to drivers are the best solution at any crossing with significant traffic. If North Carolina transportation officials can successfully perform better evaluations, and mandate action from railroads, then NC may improve railroad crossing safety as traffic grows at busy railroad crossings.