Train Accidents

Since February of this year, seven people have died and dozens more have been seriously injured in accidents between commuter trains and motor vehicles in the United States.  Although the total number of deaths and injuries caused by railroad crossings has decreased in the past two decades, over 250 people are still killed annually and more than 900 injured at railroad crossings.

Recent railroad crossing accidents in California and New York have prompted federal lawmakers to introduce legislation to increase federal funding for railroad crossing improvements and re-routings.  The Oxnard accident in California in February of this year occurred at a location where a fatal accident had occurred the year before.  In fact, five other accidents have occurred at that same site since 2008.  The site combines a railroad crossing with a road intersection, and state and local leaders have called for an overpass to be built to avoid the hazards which have led to accidents over the years.

Common Causes of Train Crossing Accidents

In addition to increased federal funding, the U.S. Department of Transportation, together with volunteer organizations, is promoting law enforcement efforts and public awareness regarding railroad crossing safety and proper behavior around railroad operations.  One cause of railroad crossing accidents is collisions between motor vehicles at or near a crossing and trains.  Vehicles can become stuck at crossings due to faulty signals or gates, or sometimes due to driver confusion. 

Another cause of collisions at train crossings is breaking failures on trains, and excessive speed, both of which can cause trains to approach crossings too fast and collide with other trains on the tracks.  In addition to collisions with other trains and vehicles, trains speeding through railroad crossings or approaching crossings that lack proper gates and/or signals can cause accidents with pedestrians and passengers boarding and exiting the trains.  These accidents result in devastating injuries and fatalities.

The Applicable Law

The California Vehicle Code and California Penal Code contain several provisions concerning railway crossings. These include the following:

  • California Vehicle Code §22452: All school buses and most commercial vehicles, including those carrying hazardous or flammable materials, must come to a full stop at least 15 feet prior to crossing a railroad track.  It is considered a federal offense for trucking companies to instruct employees not to perform this required stop.
  • California Penal Code 369g:  It is a misdemeanor for anyone to trespass on or close to railroad tracks or propel a vehicle along them.
  • California Vehicle Code §22521:  No vehicle may park or come to a full stop on a railroad track or within seven and a half feet of a rail. 
  • California Vehicle Code §22526: Motor vehicles can only cross a railroad if there is sufficient room on the other side of the tracks to allow the train to pass safely. 
  • California Vehicle Code §22450:  All vehicles must stop at the white limit line before crossing a railroad track. 
  • California Vehicle Code §21362: Warning signs must be erected on the right hand side of the road within a reasonable distance from the railroad crossing.
  • California Vehicle Code §22352:  The speed limit is presumed to be 15 miles per hour within the 100 feet approaching the railroad crossing.

It is crucial that after an accident, an investigation determines whether any of these laws have been violated.  Failing to adhere to these sections of the California Code can result in liability for a train crossing accident.  Only an attorney experienced in railroad crossing accidents will be able to develop the evidence necessary to recover the compensation an injured party needs and deserves.  Accidents caused by violations of some of these code provisions can lead to a lawsuit against responsible government entities, as well as claims brought by multiple plaintiffs.  Being represented by an attorney that knows the law and can protect your rights is the best way to proceed after a railroad crossing accident.

Contact Attorney Ed Smith Today

Have you or a loved one suffered an injury in an accident caused by the negligence of another?  I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Auto Accident Attorney with the primary accident information site on the web, www.AutoAccident.com. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another, call me now at (916) 921-6400. If you are outside the Sacramento area, you can call at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

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