Skip to content

What Are Grade Crossing Railroad Accidents?

What Are Grade Crossing Railroad Accidents?Most people do not give much thought to the possibility of a train accident – particularly if they are traveling in a motor vehicle rather than in a train. However, this is a luxury that drivers in Georgia cannot afford.

Based on preliminary 2023 data compiled by the United States Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration, Georgia ranks third in the nation for the most railroad crossing crashes. According to the railroad safety group Operation Lifesavers, only Texas and California had more railroad crossing crashes in 2023.

These crashes take place at highway-rail grade crossings – locations where a railroad line crosses a street or highway at the same level as the road, rather than via an overpass or underpass. Georgia has more than 5,000 of such highway-rail grade crossings throughout the state.

Common causes of grade crossing railroad accidents

There are several factors that can contribute to train accidents at grade crossings, but the most common include:

  • Lack of safety gates
  • Lack of warning lights
  • Equipment malfunction or failure

According to Operation Lifesaver, as of December 2022, fewer than half of Georgia’s 5,000 highway-grade railroad crossings were equipped with gates, and approximately 2.9% had flashing lights but no gates. In a truly appalling statistic, more than half of these railroad crossings — around 51.9% — were considered “passive” crossings, meaning they had neither flashing lights nor gates to alert drivers and pedestrians regarding an oncoming train.

Factors like poor visibility, driver distraction or error, and drivers trying to “race” the train can also contribute to these accidents. These factors and others, such as speeding trains and defective tracks, lead to train accidents in Savannah. However, with nearly 52% of all railroad crossings in Georgia having zero warning system for drivers, it is not difficult to see why so many of these accidents happen here.

Common injuries in a grade crossing railroad accident

When a train hits a car – or vice versa – the outcome is rarely good for the occupants of the car. The combination of the larger size, weight, and, often, speed of trains at crossings can cause serious, often catastrophic injuries, or even fatalities. Common injuries in a grade crossing railroad accident may include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Spinal cord injuries (SCI)
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Dismemberment
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Internal injuries such as organ damage
  • Soft-tissue damage

These injuries can be extremely painful and are often debilitating, requiring extensive medical care and follow-up treatments. This can be incredibly expensive and, depending on the type and severity of the injury, can leave the victim unable to return to their pre-accident life. Some may require lifelong treatment and care and cause the victim to be unable to support themselves or their family, resulting in a significant financial burden.

How to avoid a grade crossing railroad accident

Per Operation Lifesaver, a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the United States. The group advises drivers and pedestrians adhere to the following safety tips:

  • Follow the law. Cross rail lines only at designated crossings.
  • Be alert. Always expect that a train might be approaching from either direction, so use caution when approaching railroad crossings. Note and obey any safety gates or warning lights or signals and look both ways before crossing the rail line. Make sure you have a clear view in both directions before crossing the tracks, and if you see or hear a train approaching, do not try to beat it across the tracks.
  • Clear the tracks. Before you cross the rail line, make sure there is room for your vehicle to fully clear the tracks on the other side. Trains overhang the tracks so Operation Lifesaver recommends that drivers “leave at least 15 feet between the front and rear of your vehicle and the nearest rail.”

If your car stalls or gets stuck at a railroad crossing, it is best to get yourself and everyone else out of the vehicle and far away as quickly as possible – even if you do not see a train approaching. If there is a blue and white emergency sign posted, call the number listed on the sign. Otherwise, call 911.

What to do if you are involved in a grade crossing railroad accident in Savannah

If you or a loved one are hit by a train while crossing a highway-grade railroad crossing in Savannah or anywhere else in Georgia, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and other related expenses. It is important that you consult a Savannah personal injury attorney skilled at handling train accident cases. At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our Savannah personal injury lawyers have experience representing clients in train accident cases throughout the state. We leverage our in-depth knowledge and strategic approach to secure a high-value settlement for every client. Call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.

Scroll To Top