Railroad Crossing Safety
Most accidents involving commuter rail lines occur when people ignore railroad crossing gates. Whether in your car or on foot, you risk serious injury or death when you try to cross a railroad track when the crossing gate is operating. The flashing lights and signals of a operating crossing gate are a signal to stop immediately.
Ignoring the safety signals at a railroad crossing is dangerous and illegal. New York State Vehicle and Traffic law (Section 1170) imposes criminal penalties and fines against those who disobey warning signals at railroad crossings.
The law requires that you stop whenever:
- a signal - visual or audible - provides a warning that a train is approaching.
- a crossing gate closes or a railroad employee signals that a train is approaching or passing.
- an approaching train sounds its whistle from within 1,500 feet of a crossing.
- an approaching train is plainly visible.
You are not permitted to drive any vehicle (including motorcycles, bicycles, or scooters) across the tracks and you cannot go through, around, or under any crossing gate or barrier while it is being opened or closed. In other words, when the bells ring, the light flashes, the gates move, or you can see a train, you must stop your vehicle.
Convictions can bring fines and/or imprisonment, which can become even more substantial with each violation within an 18-month period.
|First Conviction||$150-250||Up to 30 days|
|Second Conviction||$350-500||Up to 90 days|
|Third Conviction||$600-750||Up to 180 days|
The law also requires that your vehicle stop at least 15 feet (about a car's length) from the nearest rail.
And remember, driving around a gate that is not fully up is illegal.
Just because the train has passed, don't think you're good to go. The noise of a train can easily mask the sound of another train approaching from the opposite direction.
The regulations of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad also make it illegal for pedestrians to cross train tracks when a train is approaching or when gates or signals are activated. If you cross the tracks illegally to try to get to the station ahead of a train you are trying to board, you may receive a summons that will require you to appear in court. Pedestrians can receive fines of up to $50 and up to 30 days imprisonment for violations.
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