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Driving Near Caltrain Tracks Requires Caution

Caltrain is a California commuter rail line located on the San Francisco Peninsula and in Silicon Valley. Trains leave San Francisco and San Jose almost hourly during the week and even more frequently during peak commute hours or during popular events, like sporting events. Caltrain is an extremely convenient and popular way for people to travel. During February 2012 alone, an average of 42,354 commuters enjoyed Caltrain service.

While the service itself is a useful way to get around, have you ever stopped to consider the dangers you face when it comes to crossing the train’s tracks? When you think of all the injuries that could occur as tons of moving steel come rolling down the tracks, it can put things in perspective.

Pedestrians who fail to exercise a great deal of caution around the Caltrain tracks place themselves in harm’s way. In fact, California is among the top eight states in the nation for suicides on the rails, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Drivers who are driving near the Caltrain tracks during dark nights or early mornings are at a great risk for accidental injury as well. According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, there were 121 highway-rail accidents in California in 2012. Of these collisions, about 29 percent involved a fatality.

Caltrain operates on 52 miles of track and has 44 crossings. Their crossings are what is known as “grade level,” which means that they are not separated from other vehicle traffic. Caltrain crossings are extremely dangerous areas. They do have crossing gates, flashing signal lights and audible bells to alert you that there is an oncoming train, but it is still vital to exercise caution at each Caltrain crossing. With that in mind, here are some safety tips to keep in mind when you encounter Caltrain crossing areas:

Cross tracks only in designated areas. Pedestrians who cross in designated areas will be able to see and hear the warning signs of an oncoming train, while traffic crossing in non-designated areas will not have the benefit of these warnings. Failure to cross in designated areas could lead to a deadly injury.

Never cross the tracks immediately after the train passes. You never know if a second train may have been blocked by the first train. Caltrain travels in both directions, so you must wait until you can see clearly around the train in both directions.

Never walk around or behind the gates that are lowered at a Caltrain crossing. This is dangerous on many levels, due to the fact that the gates indicate an oncoming train. If the gates are down and no train is coming, the road is closed. Additionally, it is against the law to drive around gates that have been lowered at a railroad crossing and you can be fined.

Never, ever walk on the Caltrain tracks. It can take a locomotive engineer more than one mile to bring a train to a stop after suddenly spotting someone, so the train has little chance of missing you by the time you are seen by an engineer.

Stay out of the train’s right-of-way on the tracks. Train cars actually overhang beyond the tracks themselves by around three or four feet in both directions. If you are in or near the right-of-way, the train can easily hit you or your car.

Never attempt to touch or board a moving train. Just one touch or tiny slip and you could easily lose a limb…or your life.

Never stop or park your car on Caltrain tracks. If your car happens to stall or stop on the crossing, you should immediately get yourself and your passengers out of the car and away from the crossing. Once you are in a safe area, call and report the incident so Caltrain dispatchers can stop any oncoming trains in the area.

If you have been injured as a result of negligence, it is important to contact an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney. They can help to get you the compensation you deserve.


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