The two incidents reported in this Safety Moment involved passenger trains and automobiles.
Summarizing the event:
- The driver of a car intended to turn left after crossing two rail tracks.
- He turned too soon and landed on and between the tracks.
- The car was stuck — the driver could not extricate it.
- He and a passenger got out of the car and moved away from the scene.
- The police arrived and informed the railroad company as to what had happened.
- Nevertheless, it was too late — a full size freight train approaching the intersection could not stop in time.
- The train hit and destroyed the car.
A security camera filmed the whole incident. The complete video is quite lengthy (4:58) so we have created a shorter version here (1:54).
We are not informed as to the causes of this incident. However, events such as this occur surprisingly frequently. Common causes are that the driver of the car is inebriated, or that the driver follows the instructions of the GPS too literally (the GPS says “turn left” and he turns left, even though his car is still on the tracks).
There were no injuries.
About four years before the above event a more serious incident occurred at a crossing just down the tracks from the one just shown. The barriers had been down for many hours; the bells were ringing and the lights were flashing. Nevertheless a lady chose to drive across the tracks by dodging around the barriers. Unfortunately for her an Amtrak train was just pulling out of the station and hit her car at an estimated speed of 9.5 mph. The car was spun around and dumped on the tracks as shown. The lady was injured.
At least three important lessons can be learned from these incidents.
The first and most crucial lesson is that, when a situation is out of control, it is best for those involved simply to get away from the scene. In this incident and also in the Safety Moment Safety Moment #2: Static Electricity as an Ignition Source the persons involved did just that.
A second lesson is to treat instructions from automated systems with a dose of common sense; don’t turn left because the GPS say so.
A third, and obvious conclusion is to recognize that freight trains are much, much heavier than automobiles. In the event of a collision it is no contest.