It’s an issue that has been discussed many times before, but it still causes several hundred deaths each year. The issue? Drivers not stopping at railroad crossings. Specifically, drivers who believe they can beat an oncoming train while trying to cross the tracks. This phenomenon has proved fatal way too many times, so the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has launched a new campaign to discourage this reckless behavior.
“Stop! Trains Can’t”
In 2016 alone, 232 people died in railroad crossing accidents in the U.S. Overall, a person or vehicle is hit by a train approximately every three hours. These statistics were behind DOT’s new 2017 campaign, which is called “Stop! Trains Can’t.” The key message is to encourage young drivers, especially male drivers ages 18-49, to approach railroad crossing with caution. On the social media end of the $7 million ad campaign, DOT launched a video via YouTube.
Trains Have the Right of Way
By law, trains always have the right of way at crossings. That’s because trains can’t swerve or stop quickly. As a matter of fact, the new campaign points out that a train traveling 55 mph needs at least a mile of track to stop after the emergency break is pulled. In other words, if a train has to make a quick stop, it needs almost the length of 18 football fields to do so. The campaign video shows in a very graphic way what happens to a car if it’s on the tracks when hit by a train.
Officials hope younger drivers will take notice. As former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said:
Ignoring railroad crossing signs or attempting to race or beat a train can have deadly consequences. Hundreds of lives could be saved each year by simply following the rules.
Colorado Isn’t Immune
It was noted in an earlier blog post that in Colorado, 2016 was the deadliest year for car-train accidents since 2010. Last year, six people died in train accidents in the state. While not among the worse states in the nation for railroad crossing deaths, one death is too many. As for the ad campaign, it will be heavily promoted in 15 states where nearly 75 percent of crossing accidents occurred in 2015. If you’re wondering why male drivers are being targeted by the campaign, DOT notes that male drivers are involved in nearly 75 percent of all railroad-crossing accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens. In 2014, nearly 2,300 teenagers ages 16-19 were killed, and an astonishing 221,000 teens were injured in car accidents.
What’s even more eye-opening is that male drivers and passengers in this age group are twice as likely to be killed in a car crash than female drivers the same age. Research on fatal accidents based on gender have zeroed in on several factors that they believe contribute to more fatal accidents among young male drivers, including alcohol consumption, speeding, not wearing seatbelts, and overall reckless driving.