As you navigate the roadways, it is critical to understand the rules of the road and how they apply to your vehicle. Failure to follow these rules can have serious consequences, especially when encountering railroad crossings. Certain vehicles are required by law to stop at all railroad crossings to ensure the tracks are clear before proceeding. Whether you drive a commercial truck, bus, or emergency vehicle, yielding to oncoming trains is mandatory to avoid collisions that endanger lives and violate regulations. Understanding your obligations can help prevent legal issues for yourself and your company. Talk with a Texas Car Accident Lawyer to get started if you feel you have a case.
Before crossing any railroad tracks, be sure to come to a complete stop, look both ways, and only proceed once you have ensured no train is approaching. The few seconds it takes to stop may just save lives.
The Law: All Vehicles Must Stop at Railroad Crossings
According to state laws, all vehicles, regardless of type, must yield to approaching trains and stop at railroad crossings. This includes not only passenger vehicles but also commercial trucks, busses, motorcycles, and bicycles. ### Public Safety Concerns
Failing to stop for an oncoming train can have deadly consequences. Trains require a significant distance to stop due to their immense size and weight. They can appear closer than they are and are often traveling at high speeds. It is impossible for the train operator to stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
To promote public safety, railroad crossing signs and signals, like flashing red lights and barrier arms, are installed at many crossings. However, some crossings only have a crossbuck sign. Regardless of the warnings in place, it is critical that all vehicles come to a complete stop, look both ways down the tracks, and proceed only once the tracks are visibly clear and all signals have stopped flashing.
Some drivers attempt to pass other vehicles stopped at a crossing or drive around lowered barrier arms. This illegal and extremely dangerous behavior puts many lives at risk. There are substantial penalties for failing to stop at a railroad crossing, including license suspension, steep fines, and even jail time.
By always stopping for oncoming trains and obeying all railroad crossing signs and signals, we can work together to prevent catastrophic accidents and save lives. The few seconds it takes to stop is a small price to pay for safety. Life is precious, so let's make it a habit to stop, look and listen at every railroad crossing.
Exceptions to the Rule: When Certain Vehicles Don't Have to Stop
As a general rule, most vehicles are required by law to stop at railroad crossings until any approaching train has passed. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule for certain types of vehicles in some situations.
Emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks, and police vehicles may proceed through a railroad crossing without stopping if their emergency equipment (e.g. sirens, warning lights) are actively signaling and they are responding to an emergency call. The drivers of these vehicles must still exercise caution and be prepared to stop if a train is approaching.
School busses transporting students are also exempt from stopping if a flagger or traffic control device directs them to proceed through the crossing. The bus driver must stop before entering the crossing to verify that no train is approaching and that it is safe to continue. They must also activate the bus's warning lights and, if equipped, audible warning devices before proceeding through the crossing.
In some cases, commercial vehicles like trucks may be allowed to proceed through a crossing without stopping if they have obtained proper authorization from the railroad company that operates the crossing. The vehicle operator will need to establish communication with the train crew to ensure no train is approaching before proceeding. Strict safety procedures must be followed in these situations.
As with any vehicle, caution should be exercised when approaching railroad crossings. No vehicle is exempt from the requirement to stop if warning signals are activated or a train is approaching. Safety must come before haste.
Commercial Vehicles That Must Always Stop
Certain large commercial vehicles are required by law to stop at all railroad crossings, regardless of whether warning signals are activated. This includes:
Tractor-Trailers and Semi Trucks
Tractor-trailers, also known as semi trucks or big rigs, must come to a complete stop before crossing railroad tracks. The size and weight of these heavy-duty vehicles require extra caution and time to start and stop, necessitating a full stop to check for oncoming trains before proceeding across the tracks.
Public transit busses, school busses, coach busses and shuttle busses must stop at all railroad crossings. The number of passengers and the vehicle's size mean busses need additional time to brake, turn and accelerate, so stopping fully before tracks is mandatory. Bus drivers are responsible for the safety of all riders, so they must exercise caution when approaching crossings.
Hazardous Materials Vehicles
Any vehicle transporting hazardous materials, chemicals, gasses or waste must stop at all rail crossings. These cargo loads require specialized handling and storage, and collisions can have disastrous consequences. Drivers transporting dangerous goods must take all necessary safety precautions, including coming to a complete stop, looking and listening for trains, before crossing tracks.
In summary, large commercial vehicles including semi trucks, busses of all kinds, and those carrying hazardous materials are required by law to come to a complete stop at all railroad crossings. The size and weight of these vehicles, as well as the human lives at stake, necessitate stopping fully at each crossing to check for oncoming trains before proceeding. Failure to stop can result in traffic violations, license suspension or revocation, and even criminal charges in the event of an accident. Safety must come first.
Consequences for Failing to Stop at a Railroad Crossing
Failure to obey railroad crossing signals and stop when required can result in legal consequences, including traffic citations, fines, and even potential criminal charges if an accident occurs. As the driver of a vehicle legally required to stop at railroad crossings, it is your responsibility to fully stop and wait for any approaching train to pass before proceeding across the tracks.
If caught failing to stop at a railroad crossing, you may face penalties such as:
- Traffic tickets: Police officers monitor railroad crossings and issue tickets for violations like ignoring warning signals or crossing the tracks when a train is approaching. Tickets can carry fines of $50 to $500 or more depending on the jurisdiction.
- Criminal charges: If your failure to stop results in a collision with a train, you may face criminal charges for reckless endangerment or vehicular manslaughter. These are felony offenses that can lead to jail time, license suspension, and civil lawsuits.
- Civil lawsuits: Rail companies, train operators, passengers, or families of those injured or killed in a collision may file a civil lawsuit against a driver who failed to stop at a crossing. Lawsuits can seek compensation for medical bills, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death.
- License suspension: Repeated or egregious violations of railroad crossing laws, especially those leading to accidents, may result in temporary or permanent suspension of your driving privileges by the court or vehicle licensing agency.
In summary, failing to stop for railroad crossing signals when required by law in the vehicle you are operating can have severe legal and financial consequences. Obey all posted signs and warning devices at crossings and proceed across train tracks only when it is completely safe to avoid potential penalties. Your life and the lives of your passengers depend on it.
Staying Safe: Tips for Crossing Railroad Tracks
Staying safe around railroad tracks requires vigilance and caution. As a driver, it’s critical to understand which vehicles must stop at all railroad crossings, for your safety and the safety of your passengers.
School busses transporting students must stop at all railroad crossings, whether there are active warning devices like lights and gates or just crossbucks. This ensures children’s safety in the event of an approaching train. School bus drivers must stop at least 15 feet from the nearest rail, and proceed through the crossing only when certain the tracks are clear.
Commercial motor vehicles
Vehicles like trucks, cargo vans, and passenger busses used for commercial purposes must also stop at all railroad crossings. Commercial vehicle drivers are required to slow down, look and listen for approaching trains, and stop if a train is coming or its warning signals are active. Proceeding through the crossing at unsafe speeds could lead to disastrous collisions.
Vehicles carrying hazardous materials
Any vehicle transporting hazardous waste, chemicals, gasses or explosives must stop at all railroad crossings. Due to the potential dangers of a train collision, drivers must inspect the crossing to ensure it is visibly clear in all directions before continuing across the tracks at a safe speed. Failure to stop puts lives at risk in the event of a derailment or spill.
In summary, for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and others on the road, it’s critical to understand which vehicles must stop at railroad crossings. By exercising caution and following the law, we can work to reduce dangerous collisions and save lives. The few extra seconds it takes to stop, look and listen before crossing the tracks can make all the difference.
Call A Texas Car Accident Lawyer At Fletcher Law
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a train at a railroad crossing, you may be entitled to compensation. Certain vehicles are required by law to stop at all railroad crossings. Failure to stop can result in serious injury or death.
Ambulances, fire trucks, and police vehicles must stop at all railroad crossings, activate emergency lights and sirens, and proceed cautiously across the tracks once it is safe. Emergency vehicle operators must exercise extreme caution due to the size and weight of their vehicles.
School busses transporting students must stop at all railroad crossings, open the door and driver's window, listen and look in both directions for approaching trains, and only proceed once the driver has verified it is safe. School bus drivers are responsible for the lives of all students on board and must follow all laws regarding railroad crossings to prevent tragic accidents.
Commercial Motor Vehicles
Large trucks, semi-trailers, and other commercial motor vehicles must stop at all railroad crossings due to their size and limited mobility. Commercial vehicle operators must look and listen in both directions for oncoming trains before slowly proceeding through the crossing with caution. Due to their length, commercial vehicles often block railroad crossings, so operators must be extremely diligent.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a train at a railroad crossing, contact a Texas personal injury attorney immediately. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. An experienced lawyer can investigate the accident, determine fault, and fight for the maximum amount of damages on your behalf. Call Fletcher Law for help today.
As you can see, you must exercise caution and follow the law when approaching railroad crossings in any vehicle. Failure to stop when required can result in tragic accidents, injuries, and legal consequences. No matter if you are driving a commercial truck, a bus, or your own personal vehicle, obeying traffic signs and signals at railroad crossings is critical for the safety of all. While waiting for a train to pass may cause some delay, it pales in comparison to the irreparable harm that could result from attempting to beat the train. Your life and the lives of your passengers depend on prudent, defensive driving. So the next time you approach those familiar railroad tracks in your neighborhood or on your daily commute, remember to slow down, look both ways, and be prepared to yield to the rails. Your safe passage depends on it.