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Illinois Attorneys Discuss Railroad Crossing Safety After Train/Truck Collision

Chaos erupted in California this Monday afternoon when an Amtrak train carrying about 169 passengers derailed in a collision with a semi truck. Suntimes.com released that the accident occurred when the driver of the semi tractor-trailer failed to yield and hit the train. The impact caused the train to travel about 600 additional feet before hitting a switchback and pushing two passenger cars and the locomotive off of the tracks, according to a local highway patrol officer. Officials have not determined how fast the train or the truck were traveling, but the average speed for Amtrak through the area is 70 to 80 mph, while the speed limit on the roadway where the truck was traveling is 55 mph.

After the accident, metal pieces from the truck could be seen inside the train, and passengers’ belongings were scattered around the area. “Right after it happened I see all these people with a terrified look on their faces, all trying to get to the front of the train,” a passenger told authorities. “I tried as best I could to try and calm people down and help them get off that train.” The report states that at least twenty passengers suffered injuries ranging from bumps, bruises, scrapes, and broken bones. Thirteen of the injured passengers, in addition to the semi driver, were taken to nearby hospitals. Uninjured passengers were taken to an auditorium where they boarded another train and continued to their destinations or were picked up by family members.

Authorities stated that repair crews worked into Tuesday removing the derailed cars and locomotive and ultimately repairing the damaged railroad tracks. All train service throughout the area was stopped after the accident. BNSF Railroad Co., which operates the tracks, said the accident occurred at a crossing that was equipped with gates to stop traffic. Investigators will try to determine if the accident was caused by a malfunction of these gates, driver error, or something else.

In previous blogs, our attorneys have discussed the number and severity of train accidents in Illinois, as almost all of these accidents include property damage, personal injury, medical expenses, or fatalities. We would again like to urge the public to always be cautious when traveling near railroad tracks.

Railroad collisions have many causes, including improper installation of warning devices, improper sight lines that prevent drivers from seeing an oncoming train, failure to properly maintain crossing areas, or other types of negligence that may occur by either the train company or other vehicles involved. Surprisingly, nearly half of all collisions at railroad crossings occur when automatic warning devices such a flashing lights or gates are present and are functioning properly. Therefore, be aware of these warning devices and avoid train tracks when they are flashing. Be especially alert near train tracks that do not have these warning devices.

In addition, many people believe that if they ever crossed the train tracks at an inappropriate time, they would be able to avoid the train, or the train would be able to stop in time. However, most freight trains traveling at about 60 miles per hour take over a mile to stop. Therefore, if there is any possibility of a train coming nearby, avoid the train tracks and do not cross them until you are sure you can do so safely.

Our Chicago personal injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti understand that trucking accidents can result in life altering consequences. If you have been seriously injured, or lost a loved one in a train accident due to a negligent driver, please contact us to learn about what rights and compensation may be available to you.