Transportation Safety Board of Canada How safe can a railroad crossing be when it looks like this?

The image, taken in the course of a Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation into a fatal crash involving a passenger train and a dump truck, illustrates that the truck drove into the path of the train largely because its driver could not see the approaching train.

The investigation also determined that no red lights or gates were in place to get drivers to stop before a train was immediately in view.

In the rail and highway industries, intersections where train tracks cross roadways at the same level are called “grade crossings.” A 2007 report prepared for the Federal Railroad Administration determined that “the second highest percentage of train accident fatalities–42 percent from 1995 through 2005–(was) due to collisions at grade crossings.” A principal recommendation in that report is that regulators must ensure that rail operators remove visual obstructions from around grade crossings.

My colleagues and I have been making this recommendation for many years, and we will continue to insist that companies such as Norfolk Southern and CSX do all they can to make sure that people do not enter railroad crossings unsuspectingly and unsafely. When drivers cannot see trains and also have no physical barriers to prevent accidents, the results are all-too-often tragic.