COLUMBUS — The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) are participating in Rail Safety Week, Sept. 19-25. The week is dedicated as a reminder to Ohioans to practice safety around all rail crossings.
“We all have a role to play in keeping our roads safe. I encourage all Ohioans to avoid distractions and pay attention while driving, especially around railroad crossings,” said Gov. Mike DeWine.
Every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States. Many crashes at railroad crossings occur because motorists fail to stop at the crossing, drive around the gates, or stop/stall on the tracks.
“Practicing safe and alert driving around railroad tracks has never been more important,” said PUCO Chair Jenifer French. “Many crashes happen even when warning devices are activated, which is why it is so important to stop, look, and listen.”
“Rail Safety Week is an important time to remind everyone of the dangers of driving around active warning signs or trespassing on railroad property. Together with our state partners, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, we encourage Ohioans to always expect a train when approaching the tracks. Help #STOPTrackTragedies,” said Scott Corbitt, chair of the Ohio Rail Development Commission.
The PUCO and ORDC are encouraging you to follow these steps for safety:
• Prepare to stop. Turn off fans and radio and roll down windows. Stop at least 15 feet, but not more than 50 feet, from nearest rail.
• Look and listen both ways, carefully. Bend forward to see around mirrors and other vehicle parts blocking view.
• If it won’t fit, don’t commit. Trains extend beyond the width of the rails at least 3 feet on each side. Remember your vehicle – and cargo – overhang.
• Look again. Before you move, look again in both directions.
• Cross tracks with care. Signal, watch for a safe gap, pull back onto the road if you used a pull-out lane. Use highest gear that will let you cross without shifting.
• Keep going once you start, even if lights start to flash or gates come down.
Every rail crossing in Ohio is required to post the U.S. Department of Transportation number associated with the crossing and the emergency contact number for the railroad. If your vehicle stalls or gets stuck on the tracks, get out immediately and move away from the tracks at a 45 degree angle towards any oncoming train. Once it is safe to do so, the emergency number, visibly located near the crossing on the light poles or cross bucks, should be the first number you call if your vehicle is stuck or if warning devices aren’t properly functioning. The railroad has the ability to stop the flow of train traffic heading towards the crossing. If it is an emergency, next call 9-1-1 or the local police.
With 36 freight railroads operating approximately 5,300 miles of track and over 5,600 public grade crossings, Ohio is the fifth leading state in terms of goods transported by rail. The PUCO, in conjunction with the Ohio Rail Development Commission, is responsible for ensuring the safety of motorists at highway-rail grade crossings in Ohio. PUCO rail inspectors inspect the warning devices that are essential for motorist safety.
In 2021, there were 53 train-vehicle collisions at public railroad crossings in Ohio, including four fatalities. Find more Ohio rail crossing statistics at the PUCO website.
The Ohio Rail Hotline, at 866-814-RAIL (7245), provides Ohioans with a toll-free resource for all railroad crossing questions. For more information regarding these crossings, access the Ohio railroad information system website at http://gradecrossings.puco.ohio.gov/. For more information on rail crossing safety, visit www.PUCO.ohio.gov.