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Vast majority of Maryland railroad crossings are ungated

According to the Federal Railroad Association (FRA), of the 631 public grade railroad crossings in Maryland, only twenty percent are gated. Most of the ungated crossing use flashing lights or bells, but about eighty have only a sign to warn drivers of possible oncoming trains.

Crossings in areas that get a significant amount of truck traffic can be particularly problematic. The Halethorpe crossing, which is ranked 19th most likely to have a crash of all railroad crossings in the state, runs through an industrial park and past the Baltimore headquarters of CSX Corp. Even higher, at 16th, is the ungated crossing in Rosedale. In May, a trash truck was hit there by a CSX freight train, which derailed.

Craig Talbott, a vice president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association Inc., says that train crossing precautions are not a significant part of truck driver training, even though there are serious professional penalties, not to mention legal ones, for ignoring crossing laws. If a driver receives a ticket for illegally crossing a railroad track, his or her commercial license may be revoked for sixty days. Regardless of what type of vehicle a person is driving, state law gives trains the right-of-way at a crossing.

Despite these many ungated crossings, Maryland is considered one of the safest states in the U.S. when it comes to railroad crossing accidents. Between 2010 and 2012 there were 52 accidents, four with fatalities, at railroad crossings. Nonetheless, drivers need to be vigilant when approaching a crossing, gated or not.

Attorneys who specialize in representing victims of car accidents and truck accidents remind drivers that it is their responsibility to stop, look, and listen when approaching railroad tracks, even if there are no signs, lights, bells, or gates. No driver should ever try to outrun a train. Railroad accidents can be fatal not just for the driver and passengers of the vehicle crossing the tracks, but for those on the train as well. Most trains are moving at speeds that make it impossible to stop, and attempts to do so can result in derailment and mass casualties.

Source:  The Baltimore Sun, "Ungated railroad crossings pose dangers" Candy Thomson and Carrie Wells, Jun. 01, 2013

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