A vivid illustration of the dangers of railroad crossings

Sobering video has emerged of a dramatic accident involving a FedEx truck and a commuter train in Salt Lake City, Utah.

To me, the most important aspect of this collision was the admission that the crossing arms and warning lights had been ‘affected’ by snow and ice, and had therefore not come down.  As far as I’m concerned, the accident still should not have happened, because the drivers crossing the railroad should have been checking to left and right before they did so!

Miss D. and I frequently cross a railway line near our home.  We always look left and right, visually checking that it’s safe to do so, even when the warning lights are off.  That’s because we know that all machines are inherently breakable.  Sooner or later, they will malfunction.  It’d be just our luck to be in the path of a speeding coal train when they do!  My parents taught me that when I was learning to drive – it was one of the first points they rammed home into my thick skull.  “Even if the lights are in your favor, and everyone else in your lanes is moving, check for yourself.  Other people get stupid, and they die for it.  Don’t be one of them!”  I’ve tried to apply that lesson since then, and it’s saved me from at least half a dozen bad accidents where other drivers ran red lights, or failed to stop at a stop sign, or skidded on wet roads.  If you aren’t in their way when they do that, you won’t get hit.  Simple . . . but life-saving.

In this case, I blame the driver(s) who kept crossing the rail lines, assuming it was safe to do so because the warning indicators weren’t in operation.  Therefore, they didn’t bother to look in both directions first.  That’s what caused this accident.  If they’d looked, I don’t see how they could have missed that train bearing down on them.



  1. Besides looking, didn't they hear the train's horn sounding? Those things are loud enough to be heard by anyone not stone deaf.

  2. If I'm the first one to stop at a crossing, I tend to stop a good ways back, in case of derailment at the crossing. Give yourself a bit of a cushion to add time to react.

  3. Jim, a lot of municipalities have 'outlawed' the sounding of train horns, either altogether or at specific purposes.

    They need to look into the sound regulations and why the engineer wasn't laying on the horn like crazy.

  4. In my town, at least one of the track crossings is in pretty tight quarters and if you stop a good ways back you can't see down the line anyway.

    By the way, I noticed that the police car the dashcam video came from did stop.

  5. Growing up around trains I learned early on not to trust the signals. Was in a neighbor's car as a kid and looked out my window in the back seat to see a train so close I couldn't see the top of the cab. We didn't get hit but we were inches from it. As a kid I can remember dozens of times where the signals didn't activate and a train was barreling through the crossing. Trains are dangerous but they're huge, make lots of noise and move on tracks. Even un-coupled and moving by itself a train car can't exactly sneak up on you unless you're in a car with the windows up and radio on and not watching the tracks.

  6. Well it looks like everybody is focused on the train crossing gates and the train horn. I wonder why the truck driver was barely moving across the tracks. The other truck made it across just fine in the available time.

    In the past year I have noticed (and continue to) something different about fedex ground trucks. I dont know if they are just routing a larger portion of them through my town or if they are contract drivers, or what major change has happened in the recent past. I never had a problem before, but it seems that many of them are sitting in the left lane, or making quick lane-changes into the left lane, or either going slower than traffic or faster then trucks. But they seem to have become a regular hazard to be around. Something is up with them. They are starting to challenge Swift for the road hazard crown.

  7. Just as fire trucks and ambulances. Heavy trucks have radios, usually loud. And well insulated against outside noise, and clanky engines. The weather sealing the doors and noise information sources. I can see how it would happen, but cool video.

  8. Notice too that there is a wall just before the truck meets the tracks…He may not have seen the train until too late.

    Looks to me like he tries to brake (perhaps hearing a horn?) then slides and can't stop in time, so tries to power through.

    Dunno for sure. But I don't think you can blame this on the truck driver, really.

  9. No, its a fence and its well prior to the tracks, up the hill.

    Also looks like he was stopped before the tracks, and then begins to go, if not completely stopped he was well around walking speed. If he indeed stopped that would explain the extremely low speed while crossing. If he didnt stop, then who is silly enough to crawl across tracks, whether you know a train is coming or not. Note the pileup of vehicles behind the mishap truck.

    As I noted, the truck in front of the camera didnt have an issue with the crossing, lights, or horn. In the world of systems safety and mishap investigation, the gates, lights and horn might be "findings" but not "causal". The truck that made it safely through the crossing is the damning evidence for the mishap driver.

  10. The video has changed to something else. Is that deliberate on your part, or are there YouTube shenanigans happening?

  11. I spent ten years with C&NW railroad in their Clinton IA car shops.
    Two things I recall. We had a dual use form that was work place accident report on one side and grade crossing accident on the other. Tells you how common both were.
    The other thing in discussions with railroad engineers and brakemen was the certainty that the train always wins. That much mass and brakes that are metal on metal, there is no stopping them even in the best of conditions. Other than seeing yet another poor fool get killed, and the inevitable paperwork involved, what scared the train drivers the most was that one instance when the encounter might be considered a draw, when a train impacts a loaded gasoline truck at speed.

  12. The truck in front of the cop got through because he never stopped, he approached the tracks fast enough to not worry about traction problems at the crossing. The truck that got hit looks like a double trailer rig. The one in front of the cop seems to be a single trailer, but I'm not positive.
    Big Rigs are not quick off the mark, as can be clearly seen. And they're looong, which makes them easy targets to hit.

  13. It all comes down to situational awareness. Don't die in "condition white".

    Ed McLeod
    (More than meets the eye)

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