On that dark Friday night in May, a white crossing marker and a stop sign at the top of an uphill curve on Summit Ridge Road indicated a railroad crossing there. But there were no gates, no bells and no lights to signal a train’s approach.
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Rail crossing safety tips
Because more than half of the rail crossings in Georgia do not have gates, drivers must look and listen at them to avoid collisions. Some crossings have stop or yield signs, but others just have X-shaped railroad crossing signs called crossbucks.
— Always expect a train. Freight trains do not follow set schedules.
— Keep in mind that sound insulation in cars, along with other noise like air conditioning, the engine or the radio, could muffle the sound of a train horn.
— At crossings with just crossbucks, the crossbucks should be considered the same as yield signs. It isn’t safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail. Look both ways and if there is no train coming, cross quickly.
— If you see a train approaching, wait for it to pass before crossing the tracks.
— Never race a train to the crossing, because “even if you tie, you lose,” as rail safety education organization Operation Lifesaver puts it.
— A train can be three feet wider than the tracks on both sides. Do not walk or stop near the tracks.
— If your vehicle stalls on the tracks when a train is coming, get out and move away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. If you run in the same direction as the train, you could be injured by flying debris.
— Do not drive around lowered gates; it is illegal and dangerous. If you think a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted by the crossing signal.
Source: Operation Lifesaver, Congressional Research Service report.