Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Comprehensive Train Safety Guide

Just like tractor trailers, train-based transportation has been a crucial part of the world’s motion for a long time. Trains consist of three main components: an engine, a railway system, and a railroad car(s). Predictably, the engine is the power behind everything; the moving force of the train itself. However, just like an everyday motor vehicle, there are many different types of engines (also known as the locomotive) that a train can be equipped with. It was popular to use coal or steam back in the day, with diesel and electric-powered engines becoming more common in the 21st century. Much like locomotives, railway systems and railroad cars take different forms as well. Trains need a track to ride on, and while they all may appear to be the same, two sets of tracks can differ greatly. For example, the Maglev railway system created in 1937 uses a series of powerful magnets to support and propel the train to impressively high speeds.

The real kicker is the railroad cars which attach to the locomotive to create what we all recognize as the average, everyday train. If engineers can put it on wheels and fit it onto a train track, it’s likely to have been in the form of a railroad car before. There are two essential categories that these cars fall into: freight and passenger. Freight being any car that is designed to hold cargo, goods, waste, debris, or anything else you can think of that is NOT considered to be a passenger. On the other hand, passenger trains stay true to their name—trains designed to transport commuters to and from their destination in a relatively quick and convenient way. Subway systems run rampant through states highly-populated states like New York—a low cost alternative to car-travel on busy metropolis streets, which is not only stressful, but far more dangerous than any train. In Florida, however, it’s not as common to see passenger trains in the masses because our roads are already replete with highways; more than enough to support the current population. Not to mention we’re limited on how far down we can dig (due to our low elevation; a measly 100ft above sea level on average), and many railway systems rely on the freedom of underground passage to continue incessant operation.

However, despite their instinctual usefulness, trains can also pose a threat to society. They’re undoubtedly enormous, weighing an upwards of 6,000 tons; not to be mistaken with the weight of an average car, which is more along the lines of 3,500 pounds—close to 2 tons. Don’t be fooled by their cumbersome nature though, as a standard train can travel at an average of 62mph, making it a peripatetic wrecking ball capable of eradicating anything in its path. Luckily, that “path” (otherwise known as train tracks) is usually tucked away with minimal interference into our public endeavors. When it comes time for paths to intersect, however, you’ll find yourself at a railroad crossing. Crossing accidents are more common than you may think. According to the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), there’s a collision between a car or person and a train every 3 hours in the United States alone. They also reported that around 2,500 of those collisions resulted in a fatality or serious injury in 1995.

But it’s not only at specific railroad crossings that these accidents take place. Many injuries involving a train actually occur in or around the train itself with no railroad crossing in sight. Why is that, and how can you better prevent your own personal injuries? The most straightforward way to preserve your well-being is to stay alert whenever your personal safety can be affected by the hands of another entity. How you should behave in the presence of trains should be common sense, but a quick refresher should answer any questions one might have pertaining to such. Based on your association with the train, you should be able to easily locate and educate yourself with some of these crucial safety tips and facts regarding trains (as provided by Operation Lifesaver):

General Safety Tips:
  • Not all trains work on a fixed schedule. For long periods of time, you may never once witness nearby train tracks in use, but don’t get too confident. Always assume a train is on its way.
  • If you see a train—no matter how fast or slow it appears to be travelling—never try to “get there first”. Even if the crossing gates are lifted, it’s always safer to let the train pass before you continue. After all, what could be so time sensitive that it’s worth risking your life for?
  • If you didn’t see a train approaching, perhaps you were distracted. Around trains, your safety can change in the blink of an eye. Never underestimate the threat that trains pose; stay attentive.
  • Only cross at designated level crossings that function as a sort of “crosswalk for train tracks”. Did you know: crossing anywhere other than the intended crossing point is considered trespassing, and you could be ticketed for doing so?
  • Never, ever, ever try to board a moving train. This is self-explanatory.
  • Don’t think that a train is ever going to stop for you. Depending on the speed at which a train is moving, it could take well over a mile for it to come to a stop. For this reason exactly, it’s highly recommend to stay away from train tracks altogether unless you’re crossing over them—and when doing so, hustle.
  • You may be waiting for a gate to lift after being lowered for some time with no train in sight. Whatever you do, going around the gate to avoid it is NOT A VALID ANSWER. While it’s possible that the gate/light system is malfunctioning, it’s still illegal to do so, and still quite dangerous on the off-chance that a train is ‘a comin’.
  • Do not stop your vehicle on the tracks for any reason. No matter how good of a reason you think you have, stopping your vehicle on the tracks puts not only your own life in dangerous, but the live(s) of anyone on the train as well.
  • If your vehicle unfortunately breaks down on a set of tracks, get out as soon as possible. Call for assistance if needed, and, depending on your view of the tracks, you should be able to get your vehicle to safety in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Don’t ride your bike over the train tracks. Brave bikers may elect to ride over tracks, but if they knew how dangerous it was, they may give it a second thought. If the narrow wheel of a bike gets caught in the rails, you could end up with some serious injuries. Instead, simply walk the short distance in a safe and hasty manner.
Train Passengers:
  • Hold on and brace yourself for the trip. It will be bumpy and you will be jostled around for the duration of your travels. It will be in your best interest to grab onto a nearby support pole.
  • Watch your step when boarding. While most modern day passenger trains take steps to prevent this sort of accident, many will still have large gaps that require a little pep in your step to get over.
  • Maintain a safe distance from the platform edge. What’s the rush? Let the train come to a complete stop before you rush to get on. There are many factors which can lead to you or another falling into the tracks, so stay safe and leave some space.
While train accidents are far from a growing threat, they still happen at an alarming rate. Thousands of people each year are injured or killed in train-related accidents, leaving them (or the family) with outstanding medical bills and tremendous pain and suffering. Sadly, it’s not always clear-cut what went wrong in an accident, making financial recovery nearly impossible for an unprepared victim of someone else’s negligence. However, there’s still hope if you’re seeking compensation for your physical, mental, emotional, and/or financial losses.

Dolman Law Group is a personal injury firm located in Clearwater, Florida and we strive to help our clients fight for and receive the compensation they deserve after a wrongful injury or loss of a family member. If you’ve been hurt after another party’s alleged wrongdoing, contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation through our website, or give us a call at 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900


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