Dangerous Railroad Crossings
Each railroad company has a duty to provide an adequate sight-triangle at all of its railroad crossings. An inadequate sight triangle at a railroad grade crossing renders the crossing defective, unreasonably dangerous, and deadly … and subjects the railroad company to liability for injury or death caused by a train/vehicle collision.
What is the Sight-Triangle? The sight-triangle is the triangle formed by the distance along the roadway from the roadway vehicle to the crossing, the distance along the tracks from the train to the crossing, and the distance along a sight-line from the roadway vehicle to the train.
The Size of the Sight-Triangle Depends on the Normal Speeds: The track speed limit and the roadway speed limit are both important variables in determining if the sight-triangle was adequate for the crossing, because the size of the required sight-triangle will depend upon the normal speed of the approaching train and the normal speed of the approaching roadway vehicle, since a greater stopping distance is required for greater speed.
Obstruction of Sight-Line is a Breach of Railroad Duty: Either a temporary (e.g., vegetation) or a permanent (e.g., pond levee) obstruction along the sight-line from the location of the approaching train to the location of the approaching highway vehicle can limit the field of view and cause a collision which is the fault of the railroad and a breach of the railroad company’s duty to highway motorists.
The Vehicle Driver Cannot Perceive the Danger by Roadway: Without an adequate sight-triangle, the driver of a roadway vehicle approaching a railroad grade crossing is not able to see a train far enough along the tracks to have time to react to its presence and stop the highway vehicle before entering the crossing.
The Railroad Company Knows the Danger: Track speed and roadway speed determine the size of the needed sight-triangle. Since the railroad company knows the track speed, the normal highway vehicle speed, and the geometry of its crossing, the railroad company can calculate the sight-triangle needed for any particular crossing. The railroad company is, therefore, responsible for providing an adequate sight-triangle and for keeping that designed sight-triangle unobstructed, so that approaching motorists can safely cross the track while driving on the highway.
Help prevent an innocent person from being killed at a railroad grade crossing. Report any obstructions of the designed sight-triangle and demand the railroad company to immediately cure any known sight-triangle violation.