Railroad Safety Tips and Facts
courtesy of Operation Lifesaver1


  • Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change.
  • Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.
  • All train tracks are private property.
  • Never walk on tracks; it’s illegal to trespass and highly dangerous.
  • By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks it’s too late.
  • It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile — the length of 18 football fields — to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
  • The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons.
  • This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car.
  • We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
  • Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police, and pedestrians.
  • A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three foot mark.
  • If there are rails on the railroad ties always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.
  • Trains can move in either direction at any time.
  • Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
  • Today’s trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale “clackety-clack.”
  • Any approaching train is always closer, and moving faster, than you think.
  • Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
  • Stay alert around railroad tracks.
  • No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.


1 Operation Lifesaver is a nationwide, non-profit public information and education organization dedicated to eliminating collisions, injuries, and fatalities at highway-railway crossings and from trespassing on railway rights-of-way.


See also

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety



Page last updated: February 7, 2018
Page last reviewed: August 29, 2016