Fatal New Kent Railroad Crossing Accident Sparks Safety Questions
Railroads are intrinsically dangerous places, particularly where roads cross the tracks at grade crossings. Most drivers are familiar with the clanging noise and flashing red lights that warn of an approaching train before barriers are lowered in urban parts of Hampton Roads.
Notwithstanding the safeguards, crashes continue to occur on railroad crossings equipped with safety features. They often result in serious injuries and deaths. However, drivers in rural Virginia face even greater dangers on crossings with minimal safeguards. Earlier this month, a woman died on a railroad crossing in New Kent County. Her family criticized the design and safety of the crossing in the wake of the tragedy.
What Happened at the Fatal New Kent Railroad Crossing Accident?
ABC 8 News reported the daughters of the deceased said her death was avoidable. The 56-year-old woman from Lanexa was traveling home from work late at night when her car and a freight train collided on the grade crossing at the intersection of Outpost and Allen Roads.
The news channel noted the crossing is equipped with stop signs and private railroad crossing signs that are intended to warn drivers of the crossing. It lacks flashing lights and crossing arms. Understandably, members of the deceased woman’s family are saying signs are not sufficient to protect people crossing the tracks.
Two of the woman’s daughters said their mother would still be alive today if the railroad crossing had lights and arms. This fatal railroad accident in New Kent, once again, raises questions about poorly marked railroad crossings. Although accidents can and do occur on crossings with barriers and flashing lights, many of the fatalities we read about happen on rudimentary crossings in rural areas.
In 2019, a 28-year-old woman died when her car collided with a CSX train on Snowden Street in Chesapeake. The woman’s uncle called for changes to be made at the crossing. He said it lacked both gates and lights, and even the white railroad markings on the road approaching the crossing appeared to be worn away. He told a news channel the crossing had a sign and a yield sign, but they were not highly visible and difficult to see at night.
CSX issued a statement pointing out the warning devices at the crossing and the road markings “adhere to national standards set forth by a USDOT uniform code (Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways).” It pointed out decisions about appropriate signage or road marking are led by state authorities, in this case the Commonwealth of Virginia, reported WAVY.com.
Lack of Safety Measures Result in Fatal Railroad Crossing Accidents
We remain concerned about the safety of railroad crossings in Hampton Roads and elsewhere in Virginia. We recently noted a spate of railroad crossing accidents in Suffolk.
Last year, a motorist suffered serious injuries in an accident with a train at the intersection of North Capital Street and Railroad Avenue late at night. Officials said a woman driver was transported by Nightingale medical helicopter to an area hospital for treatment of her acute injuries.
The incident on Dec. 5 came close on the heels of a serious crash on a grade crossing in Suffolk in late November. A Norfolk Southern train hit a male driver at the railroad crossing on Liberty Street in Downtown Suffolk. WAVY reported the driver survived the crash but was treated for serious injuries. No passengers were in the car and the train did not derail.
Serious railroad crossings occur with alarming regularity in Suffolk. A 61-year-old dump truck driver from Norfolk lost his life in a crash with an Amtrak train. Drivers have been killed for decades on railroad crossings in Suffolk.
Recent media reports alluded to growing frustration in the city over delays on crossings. WAVY reported many residents endure waits of up to 20 minutes for slow trains on grade crossings. News reports suggested some drivers were trying to beat trains before crossing arms came down.
More fatal crashes occur on railroad crossings than anywhere else on the network. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 5,800 train-car crashes are reported every year in the United States, most of them at grade crossings. Railroad crossing accidents see about 600 deaths and more than 2,300 injuries every year.
Accident victims and their families often fail to realize they have potential grounds to sue a railroad for injuries on defective crossings. A grade crossing may have inadequate or malfunctioning safety systems; the railroad may have failed to clear vegetation around a crossing, obscuring the view of motorists. Even the failure of a train engineer to sound the horn when approaching a crossing can be grounds for action against the railroad.
America’s railroads suffer from an acute lack of investment. This can cause hazards on a crossing such as an uneven surface that can ground a truck or mean lights and barriers are left in a poor state of repair. If you or a family member has suffered an injury on a crossing, please call our experienced railroad accident lawyers as soon as possible.