Railroad crossing accidents involving a train and a car or truck can have devastating consequences. This was the case Monday in Charleston, West Virginia (WV), in what State Police are calling "a horrible accident."
A 16-year-old Branchland boy was driving alone when he came to a train crossing, where a southbound CSX train was approaching. It doesn't appear that there were any active warning devices, such as gates, red lights or a train whistle to stop vehicles from moving across the road-level tracks. The young man was killed while attempting to to cross the tracks, but he didn't make it. The railroad train collided with the SUV, killing the boy inside.
We have significant experience in railroad injury law including railroad crossing cases, so I come across sad stories like this one about pedestrians and vehicles being hit while crossing tracks and other railroad accident reports at least once each week. My condolences go out to the family of this young teen. It is a terrible thing for a parent to have to see the death of a child in any accident, much less a railroad accident.
The trooper said the crash in West Virginia appears to be "a total accident," whatever that vague phrase means. I always advise using caution when approaching railroad crossings and to stop if a train is approaching. However many different federal regulations impact the responsibilities of the warnings that must be provided by a railroad, for the cars or trucks that are crossing the railroad track. Also, many states have "vegetation" clearing requirements which mean trees, shrubs and obstructions should not block visual access at crossings. The human toll of railroad crossing deaths is terrible, not only on the family's of those injured or killed, but places an enormous emotional toll on the railroad engineer who may witness a tragic crash-and may be powerless to avoid it. Even the railroad unions have been pushing the railroads and government for improved railroad crossing safety.