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Railroad crossing safety tips for Montana drivers

Railroads play an important part in Montana's economy. Long freight trains carry the state's oil, coal and agricultural products to markets throughout the nation. But trains can be deadly, especially where their tracks cross roads and highways. There are over 3,500 railroad crossings in Montana. The nonprofit group Operation Lifesaver has published some safety tips that can help prevent death and serious injury to motorists.

Never try to beat a train to the crossing and never drive around lowered crossing gates. Trains are often closer and moving faster than you think. And trains take a long time to stop: a train moving at 55 m.p.h. needs at least a mile to stop after applying its emergency brakes.

Don't get stuck on the tracks. Don't cross the tracks until there is enough space on the other side to get your vehicle completely clear of the tracks. Remember that trains are about three feet wider than the rails on each side.

If your vehicle does get stuck on the tracks and a train is approaching, get out of the vehicle immediately. Run away from the tracks and in the direction the train is coming from. If you go in the same direction as the train you could be struck by flying debris when the train hits your vehicle.

Train-car collisions are not always the fault of the motorist. In some situations the railroad can face liability for car accidents at crossings. If an accident occurs because a crossing is not adequately marked or because lights and crossing gates malfunction, the railroad can be held legally responsible for any injuries or deaths that result.

Source: Operation Lifesaver, "Driving Safety Tips," accessed Feb. 9, 2015

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