Fort Myers residents are familiar with the Seminole Gulf Railroad that extends throughout the city and covers surrounding areas of Bonita Springs, Arcadia, and North Naples. Drivers are often forced to cross these tracks when getting around, but intersections are not always the safest, putting them at major risk for an accident. Are there ways drivers can better prepare themselves when crossing tracks?
Early last month, a truck hit an empty Seminole Gulf train tanker at Hanson and Old Metro Parkway, sending two people to the hospital. The safety gates were down, crossing lights were flashing, and the train was blowing its signal horn, according to News-Press. Even so, the truck and train collided. But why?
Vice President of Seminole Gulf Railway Robert Fay told the newspaper that information from witnesses indicated that the truck was likely trying to beat the freight train across — which is a violation of Florida state law. “The gate was down, but they swerved the gate and just smashed into the train,” witness Nick Smith told NBC-2.
A person or a vehicle is hit by a train every three hours, according to Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety education organization based outside of Washington D.C. Their nationwide mission is to end collisions, deaths, and injuries at highway-rail grade crossing and railroad property by educating people about rail safety.
When the organization was founded in 1972, the average number of collisions was over 12,000. But there has been a significant decrease in accidents in the past 44 years. The Federal Railroad Administration counted 2,059 highway-rail grade crossing collisions in 2015, 76 of which were in Florida.
There are many factors that cause most railroads crashes in Fort Myers. For one, various crossings lack proper signage and lights that alert drivers. Just last month, south Lee County residents were asked to exercise caution at the intersection of Alico and Gator Roads, where the Department of Transportation would be installing a traffic signal and maintenance would be conducted on the tracks.
Just as there are dangers at crossings, there are multiple safety techniques every driver can practice to prevent an accident in Fort Myers.
Expect Trains At Any Time
Trains, especially freight trains, do not always run on a set schedule. Locomotive engineers may often see a vehicle or person on the tracks but they can only sound their horn and apply the emergency brakes. This does not mean it will completely avoid the collision. The heavy cars take over a mile to come to a complete stop, even though brakes are on every wheel. If you keep in mind that trains are traveling at any given time, you’ll be better equipped mentally to handle a crossing situation.
Never Race a Train
Trains are closer and faster-moving than you think. No matter how fast you’re going, it is likely that you will not beat it, according to Operation Lifesaver. When you’re approaching a crossing, always come to a full stop, listen for approaching trains — if you cannot see them and the gate have gone up and lights have stopped flashing, cross with caution.
Obey Signage and Lights
Don’t attempt to drive around the gates and the flashing red lights. If you commit a railroad-highway grade crossing violation, the DMV could revoke your license for up to one year. Don’t forget that a second train could be approaching even if the lights have stopped flashing and the gates have lifted. It is possible that the signage could be suffering from malfunctions.
If Your Vehicle is Stalled on the Tracks…
Immediately get out and move away from the track in the direction from which the train is coming. Should you run in the same direction the train is traveling, you could be injured by flying debris if the train hits your car. It is always wise to call local law enforcement for assistance.
Is There Enough Room?
When approaching a railroad crossing, make sure there is enough room for you to cross to the other side, especially when there is traffic. You never want to find yourself stuck on the middle of the tracks because traffic is not moving ahead. This puts you and any driver in danger of a collision with an approaching train.
As long as the Seminole Gulf Railroad is in operation, Fort Myers drivers will always encounter trains. Should you or a loved one get into an accident at such a crossing, our car accident attorneys can be of assistance. Read more about how we can help and to receive a free case evaluation today.