Railroad Track Safety

November 25th, 2009 by Dionna | Comments Off on Railroad Track Safety
Posted in Eclectic Learning


After posting about Kieran’s train obsession, a couple of well-meaning readers brought it to my attention that playing around tracks is illegal and dangerous. They made a valid point, and I will attempt to redeem myself by posting about railroad track safety.

“In 2008, a total of 22 children ages 14 and under were killed and 122 were injured in incidents involving trains.” (“These incidents involved either trains and people or trains and motor vehicle occupants.”) (1) Most railroad-related deaths and injuries are preventable by making people aware of the dangers of railroad tracks. Following are several tips for railroad safety published by Safe Kids USA:

1. “Never try to cross the tracks if a train is coming. Trains are very large and heavy, and take a long time to stop!” In fact, trains take up to a mile to stop once the engineer starts braking.

2. “Only cross at railroad crossings and always look both ways before crossing the tracks.”

3. “Obey all signs and signals. Listen for a warning bell and train whistles. Watch for flashing lights.” Did you know that the lights at a railroad crossing can flash for as little as 20 seconds before a train crosses? That is often not enough time for a car to cross the tracks.

4. “When a train is coming, stand at least 10 giant steps away from the tracks.” “A train may extend three feet or more outside the steel rail, which makes the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the rails themselves.” (2)

5. “If one train passes, make sure another one isn’t coming. Trains can come from any direction at any time on another track.”

6. “Always get off your bike and walk it across the tracks. Don’t forget to wear your helmet when you ride your bike.”

7. “Walking or playing on railroad tracks is dangerous.” (3)

One more fact that may give you pause: “A typical locomotive weighs approximately 400,000 pounds or 200 tons. When 100 railcars are added to the locomotive, the train can weigh approximately 6,000 tons. The weight ratio of an automobile to a train is proportional to a soda can and an automobile.” (4)

While I agree that I have not been providing an appropriate example in allowing Kieran to walk on the tracks (and I will be sure not to let him on the tracks in the future), I will not stop taking him to see the trains at the depot. He can safely enjoy the trains from the sidewalk.

I believe that it is our job as parents to teach our children to be safe around potentially dangerous things. It could be dangerous to play in a driveway near the street – but you teach your kids to watch for cars. It could be dangerous to use or walk with scissors, but you teach your children  the proper way to handle and transport them.

I will teach Kieran to respect railroad property by staying on the sidewalks and to understand that trains can be dangerous when people do not exercise caution around them.

I am interested in hearing other parents’ ideas on teaching children about dangerous situations. Do you keep your children from every danger – real or imagined? Do you try to instill fear or a healthy respect? What strategies do you use to teach children safety?


(1) “Safety at Railroad Crossings,” http://www.usa.safekids.org/rail/documents/2009%20CN%20Rail%20Safety%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

(2) Safety at Railroad Crossings; “Safety Tips and Messages,” http://www.oli.org/education_resources/safety_tips.htm

(3) Safety at Railroad Crossings

(4) Safety Tips and Messages

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