Look both ways at the Crossing!

Last year I heard some farmers talking about moving farm equipment on the roadways and the many potential hazards that could happen. One mentioned was railroads and the respect we all need to have for the “iron horse”. It’s a force that you need to watch out for and realize that you can’t make assumptions around railroad crossings and always look and don’t take chances. I remembered a 2019 article I was quoted in about railroad safety. As this is a busy time of year for farming, I thought it was worth another read. I hope you agree.

Here’s the article from 2019.

Railroad crossings can pose a danger on farms

RICHMOND—Farming can be a dangerous job, but there’s one hazard farmers may not have on their radar: railroad crossings.

Many farmers live near rural railroad crossings or have railroad tracks on their property, which can pose a risk for train collisions. According to Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a national rail safety education organization, approximately 15% of all rail collisions each year occur on private crossings such as those on farmland.

“Anytime you’re crossing a railroad, there’s always a chance of something happening,” said Andrew Smith, associate director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Farmers usually have to go slower to make sure their equipment isn’t dragging or likely to get caught on rail lines, or if they’re going up an incline or over bumps. The safety concerns are there.”

In May an Augusta County farmer using a railroad bridge to cross a stream while repairing fences was fatally struck by a train.

Risk can increase with rural, private railroad crossings because some areas lack the gates or lights that signal an oncoming train. In addition, farm machinery is loud and farmers can’t count on hearing a train in time. Having visual contact with rail lines and looking both ways before crossing is critical. The American Farm Bureau Federation and Operation Lifesaver recently teamed up to remind farmers about the dangers associated with rail lines. Operation Lifesaver published the following safety tips:

  • Slow down as you approach a railroad crossing.
  • Stop no closer than 15 feet from the crossing.
  • Look and listen for a train. Open cab windows, turn off radios and fans and remove headphones. Rock back and forth in your seat to see around obstacles.
  • Look both ways again before crossing.
  • Once you start across, do not hesitate. Do not change gears.

“We can’t take a crossing for granted, and we can’t compete with a train,” Smith said.

Our friends at Operation Lifesaver, Inc. – Railroad Safety Education has some great materials such as this one on Farm Equipment around railroad crossings. Brochure

For more information visit https://oli.org/.

Andrew W. Smith, Associate Director

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