Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 Investigates team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - About every three hours in America, someone is hit by a train.

50 times in 2018 in Tennessee a train hit a car that was where it shouldn’t have been – on the railroad tracks.

crossbuck sign.jpg

This is a crossbuck sign, which means drivers are supposed to yield to a train, even if there are no crossing gates or lights.

Tennessee’s Operation Lifesaver has tips for saving your life at a railroad crossing.

First, remember, the train always has the right of way. You, the driver, has to yield, even if there is no red light or crossing arms.

The white crossbuck sign means always expect a train; they don’t run on a schedule and they can come from either direction.

It takes a train going 55 miles per hour about a mile to stop, and that’s if the engineer sees you. Think of the length of a football field, then multiply that length times 18.

Jill McClintock is the CEO of Tennessee Operation Lifesaver.

News4 asked her to point out some common but deadly mistakes drivers make.

One is drivers stopping on the tracks at an intersection waiting for the light to change or stopping to turn right on a red light.

"It’s illegal to stop on the railroad tracks,” she said.

And remember to stop at the line painted on the road - not closer - because the trains are wider than the tracks by three feet on each side.

If you’re stuck on the tracks, get out immediately, McClintock said, don’t stop and pose for a selfie on the tracks.

Look for the blue sign at the crossing – every crossing has one. There’s an emergency phone number and an ID number for the railroad crossing.

Call the emergency number right away.

"Every crossing has an identification number. Let that dispatcher know that number, so that they know where you are, and they can slow down or stop a train that may be coming down the track," McClintock said.

If a train is coming and your car is on the tracks - this might not sound logical – run toward the train at a 45-degree angle. That way, you won't be hit by the flying debris that’s being propelled forward along the tracks.

If for some reason, you’re trapped between a crossing gate and an oncoming train, hit the gas and drive through the crossing arm. They are made to give way.

McClintock said to be careful at crossings where you see a sign indicating there are two or three tracks.

It means a second or third train could be behind the first one.

“People rush through after the first train clears. The first train might block the view of a second train. Then they never see that second train coming from the opposite direction," McClintock said.

And remember the basics - don't try to beat the train - because when it’s train versus car, even if no one is hurt, the train wins.

"We just don't want the last thing that people see to be a train," McClintock said.

Volunteers for Tennessee Operation Lifesaver give safety presentations to schools, new drivers, emergency personnel, and others. Contact them if you want to schedule a presentation.

Additional links

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.