Be cautious when approaching and crossing railway tracks

Railway crossing etiquette

Using proper caution at railway crossings is something all drivers must remember because the train will not stop for you.

It is easy to forget to look if you use a crossing regularly and don’t often encounter a train. About 20 crossing collisions occur each year in British Columbia, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The Motor Vehicle Act requires the driver of a vehicle approaching a railway track to proceed with caution to avoid a collision between the vehicle and an approaching train.

• A clearly visible electrical or mechanical signal device gives warning of the approach of a train

• A crossing gate is lowered or a flagger gives a signal of the approach or passage of a train

• A train is approaching and is within approximately 500 m of a crossing

• By reason of the train's speed or nearness to the crossing, it is an immediate hazard

• There is a stop sign posted at the crossing

Your vehicle must be stopped within 15 metres, and no less than five metres, from the nearest rail. No part of your vehicle may be on, or over, the tracks.

Drivers of vehicles carrying poisons, explosives or flammables, and drivers of regular buses or school buses carrying passengers must stop at all uncontrolled railway crossings, even if a train is not approaching.

The driver must look both ways and listen for an approaching train.

If the crossing is equipped with a barrier, a driver must stop or remain stopped if the barrier is lowering, rising or is stopped in a horizontal position.

If the crossing is equipped with flashing red lights or a stop sign, the driver must stop, look and may proceed if it is safe.

The driver must also cross the tracks without shifting gears.

Beware of crossings where there is more than one set of tracks. If a train appears to be stopped at the crossing, remember it could be waiting for another train to pass on the other set of tracks. If you drive across the tracks without checking the second crossing, you could be struck by the other train.

If your vehicle stalls or gets stuck on the tracks, move everyone at least 30 metres away and contact the railway immediately. The emergency phone number is found on a blue sign at, or near, the crossing along with the subdivision name and mile post identifying the location. If you cannot find the blue sign, call 911.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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