ProPublica and InvestigateTV recently published an investigative news piece on the dangers of blocked crossings. The issue is trains parked on lengthy sections of railway tracks, blocking major intersections for hours and even days. A result is that children walking to school are forced to climb over, squeeze between, and crawl under train cars, risking severe injury or even death. Rail companies seem unperturbed by the situation.

The Problem of Blocked Crossings

Every day across America, trains park on railway tracks as railroad workers wait to enter congested rail yards or for a replacement crew. While parked, the trains block crossings and major intersections for hours or even days. When children walking to school encounter the parked trains, their options are as follow:

  • Walk around the train, which is often a mile out of their way,
  • Go back home and miss school, or
  • Climb over or under the train.

Schoolchildren often choose the latter, but in doing so they risk severe injury as they can fall over tracks, train cars, and car parts or assemblages. If a child fails to hear a locomotive’s warning bell (signaling that the train is about to move), a child’s decision to navigate a parked train can even result in death.

While schoolchildren are directly harmed by the situation, other victims abound. According to the ProPublica and InvestigateTV piece:

“Ambulances can’t reach patients before they die or get them to the hospital in time. Fire trucks can’t get through and house fires blaze out of control. Pedestrians trying to cut through trains have been disfigured, dismembered and killed; when one train abruptly began moving, an Iowa woman was dragged underneath until it stripped almost all of the skin from the back of her body; a Pennsylvania teenager lost her leg hopping between rail cars as she rushed home to get ready for prom.”

Railway Companies Unmoved

Hammond, IN is but one city impacted by the issue of blocked crossings. Superintendent of Schools for Hammond, Scott E, Miller, has asked Norfolk Southern for its schedule so that schools can plan for blockages and students can adjust their routines. But the company has disregarded the requests.

This appears to be the most common response among railroad companies and railway executives. Further, one catalyst of the problem is precision scheduled railroading, a management philosophy that leans heavily on running longer trains. Railway companies are far from rejecting this philosophy as it often brings in larger revenues.

Possible Solutions

Many believe that federal lawmakers must intervene to give the Federal Railroad Administration more power to compel rail companies to keep crossings clear. However, there has not been much movement towards this goal. Similarly, rail companies could better coordinate their schedules, park trains far from schools that are in session, and build shorter trains. But again, railway companies are doing little to pivot in this direction.

With few answers on the horizon, the public remains in jeopardy. In 2020, data from the Federal Railroad Administration shows that there were more than 28,000 reports of stopped trains. Among them were thousands of dispatches from 44 states about pedestrians, including kids, crossing trains. Someone in North Charleston, South Carolina, summarized the situation in three letters: “Wtf.”

Contact Rossi Vucinovich for Help

If you sustained a railroad injury, please contact our law firm for help. Rossi Vucinovich PC has been helping railroad employees and people injured in railroad accidents recover from railroad injuries for over 50 years. We are dedicated to helping you obtain the benefits you need to treat your injuries, pay your bills, and continue supporting your families. Do yourself a favor and contact us today to get the legal help you deserve.