Railroad crossing safety

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT)- The identities of the two victims from Sunday’s car wreck at a railroad crossing have been released.  Consuelo Gurley, 40, was killed when she tried to drive around lowered gates at the railroad crossing at the intersection of Harrison Ave. and 17th Way SW.  Her youngest son, Micheal Earskin, Jr., 12, was also in the car.  “It breaks my heart, because it really didn’t have to happen,” says Nancy Hudson, executive director of the Alabama chapter of Operation Lifesaver, an organization aimed at raising awareness about railroad safety.

Often times, drivers attempt to maneuver around lowered gates because they don’t understand just how fast and close the approaching train is in relation to the crossing.  An Amtrak, traveling at the speed at the same speed as the one that struck Gurley’s car, can cover the length of a football field in under three seconds.  “It’s two parallel rails that will converge off in the distance, explains Hudson.  You’ve got something as big as a train coming, it makes it almost impossible to judge first, how fast is it moving, and second, how close is it.”

When you come to a railroad crossing, adhere to these safety tips:

- Crossbucks, the X-shaped white signs, are to be treated as yield signs.  “We are required to yield the right of way to the train,” says Hudson.

- If the red safety lights are flashing, stop and look.  If the tracks are clear, you can continue on; however, if you see a train approaching, wait for it to pass.

- If the gates are down, the road is CLOSED.

- Finally, Hudson says to approach each crossing expecting an encounter with a train.

Tomorrow is International Level Crossing Awareness Day.  Over forty countries will be participating.  If you would like to pick up brochures or other information, stop by the Amtrak station in Birmingham at 10:30am.

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