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Train safety refresher

Question: In my defensive driving class recently, the instructor talked about trains and rail safety, and I thought this would be a good topic for you to inform the public about. Thanks!

Answer: I have responded to a few of these types of crashes during my career and they can bring a lot of unnecessary misery for sure. Collisions with trains are mostly preventable. Car driver inattention and impatience are cited as the most common factors contributing to motor vehicle/train crashes.

In the recent past, our partners at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) have worked to share the following general rail safety tips with the public to make sure they are not in the way of a train:

Motorists should always stop their vehicle when crossing gates are down or lights are flashing; wait for the crossing gates to rise and lights to stop flashing; look both ways, listen and proceed with caution.

Also, motorists need to obey all signs and signals at railroad crossings and never stop their car on railroad tracks; always keep their car behind the white lines when approaching an intersection at railroad tracks.

Motorists and passenger should get out of the car immediately if it stalls while crossing the tracks, then call 911 or the emergency notification number located on the railroad signal equipment. If a train is coming, abandon the car. Proceed quickly towards the train at a 45-degree angle, so that if the train strikes your car, you will be safe from flying debris.

Bicyclists and pedestrians should always look both ways before crossing railroad tracks, cross only in designated areas and avoid crossing when gates are down. They should be aware that trains may operate any time throughout the day and night in either direction, and please know that walking on the railroad tracks is illegal.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205.  (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at,