Three of the deadliest train crashes in recent U.S. history made headlines worldwide. Two of them were in Texas.
On February 3, 2015 a commuter train hit an SUV near New York City. The crash killed 7 and injured 12. On January 14, 2015, a prison bus hit a train outside Odessa, Texas after the bus slid off an icy overpass onto the tracks. That crash killed 10. On November 16, 2012, a train slammed into a parade crossing the tracks in Midland, Texas. Four died and 17 were injured.
A train’s cargo can also kill. There are 10,425 miles of railroad tracks in Texas, more than any other state. In 2011, trains in Texas carried 35,063,000 tons of chemicals and 7,607,000 tons of petroleum and coal products across the state. Some of this cargo can poison the air or contaminate the ground if a train car leaks during a crash.
Trains in Texas pass through major cities – Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso –and scores of towns like Longview, Temple, Baird, Meridian, Sweetwater, Lubbock and Big Spring. Sooner or later, the average Texan will have to drive across train tracks somewhere.
Safe driving around trains is a matter of life or death. No driver should ever ignore these rules:
- LOOK BOTH WAYS TWICE before crossing the tracks.
- LISTEN: Open the car’s windows and turn off the music and the air conditioning to check for bells or whistles before crossing.
- NEVER CROSS if the crossing bars are coming down or they are down.
- NEVER STOP on the tracks.
- IF THE CAR STALLS on the tracks, get out of the car fast and get off the tracks. Stay at least 15 feet away.
- NEVER RACE A TRAIN. They go faster than it appears.
- TRAINS CAN’T STOP FAST. It takes 18 football fields before they can come to a halt.
- TIMING: freight trains do not run on schedules. They are likely to appear anytime.