Accidents that occur at railroad crossings are some of the most horrific traffic accidents that can occur. On the one hand, there is the automobile, often weighing 2 to 3 tons, and often traveling at high speed. On the other, there is a train; itself weighing hundreds of tons and also, in many cases, moving at high speed. The force generated by these objects when they collide is an indication of the momentum created when heavy objects are moving at high speed. Needless to say, the human body is easily injured, or worse, when such a collision takes place.
A reasonable question to ask is “why?” Why would such an accident happen when trains are so large, and railroad tracks are usually marked clearly with lights and controlled with boom gates? The answer, unfortunately, revolves around driver carelessness, malfunctioning safety features, or crossings that are poorly designed or maintained.
It is safe to say that the vast majority of people are unfamiliar with the myriad of safety systems in place to prevent these accidents from occurring. It is for this reason that expert witness testimony is sometimes required if there is any kind of liability claim associated with an incident involving automobiles and trains. There are some studies that suggest, with corroboration from experts in the industry, that the lights used to warn passengers that a train is coming do not produce sufficient illumination to draw the driver’s attention to a potential threat. Additionally, some trains have loud horns or whistles that they engage as they approach crossings, but some do not. Often, the crossings are enshrouded by trees or buildings that can obstruct both the train conductor and a motorist from getting a clear view necessary to take evasive action or simply avoid an accident altogether.
However, most safety protocols do work properly and indeed do protect drivers. Unfortunately, many drivers are in need of being protected from themselves. Distractions play a large role in the occurrence of accidents. Manipulating the radio, texting or making calls, other passengers in the car or items moving and shifting around can easily draw the driver’s attention away for the split second it would take for a tragedy to occur.
Of course, even with the fact that safety protocols are in place, and work the vast majority of the time, they do sometimes fail due to negligence. Systems have to be checked and maintained to ensure that they operate properly under any type of weather or traffic conditions. It is not acceptable that they work “most” of the time as it only takes one instance of a poorly designed circuit or badly coded software to result in a malfunction in which one or more people may be seriously injured, or even killed. It is this variety of potential root cause that necessitates the use of an expert at a trial where one side is seeking damages due to the perceived liability of another party. It pays to always exercise caution, regardless of safety systems, and to drive responsibly, free of distraction.
If you have been in an auto accident at a railroad crossing you should consult an attorney as soon as possible. One of our lawyers at the Ferguson Law can hel pyou make sure you get the compensation you deserve.