Fatal Railroad Crashes in New Kent Highlight Grade Crossing Dangers
Grade crossings are the most hazardous places on railroads. While these are intrinsically dangerous locations where trains may come into contact with cars, cyclists, pedestrians, and trucks, poor signage and design can exacerbate the risks.
Earlier this year, the Virginia Department of Transportation responded to two fatal crashes in New Kent County by installing new signs at a grade crossing. It remains to be seen whether the measures will go far enough.
About the Accidents
According to ABC8 News, New Kent County Administrator Rodney Hathaway highlighted the signs at the crossing near the train tracks on Rockahock Road.
The lack of barriers and lights on the crossing makes it particularly dangerous to drivers. Hathaway said the signs are yellow and read “no gates or lights.” They are located on the public right-of-way close to Outpost and Allen Roads.
Hathaway pointed out that the signs were installed to inform drivers of the crossing and to increase awareness before they cross the tracks.
In June a man from Mechanicsville near Richmond lost his life when he picked up his kids from a vacation bible camp.
According to police, Kevin A. Pence, 45, was driving a Chevrolet Suburban south on Outpost Road. He was parked partially across the train tracks, controlled by a stop sign, when the car was hit by a passenger train headed west. The child suffered non-life-threatening injuries from the glancing blow from the train.
NBC 12 reported at least eight collisions between trains and cars on grade crossings in Virginia in the first six months of 2021. The two fatal incidents occurred at the New Kent train crossing at Rockahock Road and Outpost Road.
The station spoke to Dave Carns, who lives in the Rockahock community close to the crossing. Carns and others have called for the private crossing, owned by CSX, to be fitted with arms.
The crossing has not been fitted with arms. However, Ed Allen Jr., another local resident, told ABC 8 news the signs are a step in the right direction.
“It’s kind of hard not to see them. I mean they’re very visible, they’re made in a way that attracts your attention,” Allen told the station. “I think that’s about the best thing you could have without having the lights and cross arms.”
New Kent County County leaders asked the state for help and also worked with the Economic Development Authority to create a grant program to improve the crossing after the fatalities.
Hathaway said no one applied by their August deadline. The program would have provided funds to the crossing’s owners for signage and pavement markings.
Allen, a longtime resident, has witnessed crashes at the train tracks before.
“Sometimes people don’t even stop. Most of the accidents on railroad crossings or a lot of them are with people who live right there,” he said. “They just get used to it and don’t pay attention to it.”
Helping Our Community in the Aftermath of Preventable Railroad Accidents
While our Virginia railroad accident lawyers welcome the improvements at this notorious crossing, we are concerned they may not go far enough. Private crossings are often very dangerous and lack safety features. We have represented families who lost loved ones at private crossings in Hampton Roads and elsewhere.
A report in the Sun-Sentinel noted a collision between a train and motor vehicle or pedestrian at a highway-rail grade crossing occurs every four hours in America. In 2018 alone, 270 people lost their lives. About 99 people died because a motorist deliberately drove around lowered crossing gate arms to save time.
Railroads may be held liable for deaths and injuries at crossings that lack safety features, have defects, or suffer from poor visibility. Even the failure of a train engineer to sound a horn before reaching a crossing can make a railroad liable for a crash.
At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we represent people who suffer injuries at grade crossings or the families of those who lost a loved one when a railroad failed to make the crossing as safe as possible. We also represent injured railroad workers and passengers who suffer injuries in train crashes. Contact our Virginia railroad accident team at (757) 241-8716.