Latest train-car crash shows need for railroad respect

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Respect the crossing and respect the track.

Stay on top of breaking news stories with the ABC11 News App

That's the message offered Wednesday from transportation officials after a train slammed into a car trying to cross the tracks in Durham County.

It happened just before 11:00 a.m. Wednesday at the crossing at E. Pettigrew and Driver streets, sending the driver to the hospital.

RELATED: Train slams into car, drags it in Durham

The violent collision was the 29th such incident in North Carolina this year, according to the NCDOT, and officials say Wednesday's crash in Durham underscores the need for drivers and pedestrians to obey all warnings and signs.

This Durham collision on Wednesday at the crossing at E. Pettigrew and Driver streets sent the driver to the hospital.

"Always expect a train - from any direction and at any time," warns Roger Smock, NCDOT's Rail Safety Consultant. "We're talking about masses and weights that are beyond anything you see on the highway."

North Carolina's rail system spans 88 counties and 3,300 miles of track, which facilitates a network of passenger routes for Amtrak, and even more use by freight companies such as North Carolina Railroad Company, CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern confirmed to ABC11 that one of its trains was the one involved in Wednesday's incident.

"It is important for drivers to be cautious at all roadways that cross railroad tracks," Susan Terpay, Director of Public Relations at Norfolk Southern Corporation wrote in a statement to ABC11. "There was a 'Crossbuck' (an 'X' shaped warning sign) at this crossing alerting drivers and pedestrians that there are railroad tracks ahead."

National figures suggest about 1,200 people die each year on U.S. train tracks. According to Smock, at least seven have died in 2017 thus far, well ahead of the pace for last year (eight).

The NCDOT's Rail Division counts 4,025 at-grade public crossings statewide, including 118 in Wake County and 46 in Durham County (Mecklenburg has the most, 179). At a cost of nearly $200,000 each, 1,988 of those crossings are equipped with flashing light signals and gates; 417 have just the flashing light signals.

LINK: Look up rail crossings in your area

The NCDOT's BeRailSafe campaign offers the following tips about the dangers of being on and around railroad tracks.

  • It takes a train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile to stop - that's more than 18 football fields.

  • Always expect a train at every highway-rail intersection.

  • Never drive around lowered gates. It's illegal and deadly.

  • Trains always have the right-of-way, even over police, fire and ambulance vehicles.

  • Never stop a car on the railroad tracks. If you stop to wait for a train at a traffic signal, always stop safely behind the white line.

  • The only safe, and legal, place to cross railroad tracks is at a public crossing designated with either a rail crossing sign, flashing red lights or a gate.

  • All railroad tracks are private property and trespassers can be arrested or fined, according to North Carolina General Statute.

  • Do not cross the tracks immediately after a train passes. There might be a second train approaching.

  • Stop and look in both directions. The train you see is closer and moving faster than it seems.

  • Never walk or ride a bike on or near the railroad tracks. Tracks are not a shortcut.

For more information about train safety in North Carolina, click here.
Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.