Here are some examples of things that you the rider can do to keep yourself safe.
As we've said before, at VRE, our top priority is your safety. Here are some examples of things that you the rider can do to keep yourself safe.
Crossing the Tracks/Trespassing
Remember that you should only cross the railroad tracks at designated railroad crossing locations. Do NOT walk on the railroad at any time. It's an extremely dangerous situation, and it's illegal, too—in the Commonwealth of Virginia it is illegal to cross a railroad track outside of a marked crosswalk. Doing so is considered trespassing and puts you at risk of citation and fine up to $250.
Railroad tracks are not only inherently dangerous because of passenger and freight trains traveling as fast as 60 to 80 miles per hour, but also because the ballast and the oil residue from diesel locomotives make it a prime environment for slips and falls.
Some choose to cross at sharp curves in the track with zero sight warnings of an approaching train, and because there's no road crossing there either, there's no whistle warning.
Unfortunately, examples of tragic accidents are not hard to find and pedestrians have been struck and killed while crossing the tracks at marked crosswalks by what is commonly referred to as the “second train,” i.e., a train on a second track that can be moving in either direction at substantial speed.
The ‘second train’ is a real issue now at our Quantico, Fredericksburg, Alexandria and Woodbridge stations. Track improvements there have allowed track speeds to increase, so approaching trains are coming at a much faster pace. People tend to walk around the end of a stopped train, not realizing a second train is approaching or, they'll see one train pass and start to cross, oblivious to a second approaching train because they're so focused on the one they see right in front of them. It all leads to tragedy
People walk with their heads down, they have their iPod headphones jamming in their ear, or they're focused on a cell phone conversation. The result is a loss of situational awareness which can lead, quite honestly, to death. We simply cannot state the facts more clearly: Never ignore or go around flashing red lights and a horizontal gate. Never cross a railroad track anywhere but a crosswalk. And always look and listen if you want to live.
Attempting to Board a Moving Train
Have you ever thrown a basketball from mid-court towards the hoop in hopes that you will make it? What are the chances that you'll miss? Now imagine that you are the ball, and the hoop is a door on several tons of steel moving above a set of steel wheels. Would you still be willing to risk missing that shot, considering that to miss could mean the loss of your life or limb?
In the past, we've had some of our less "thoughtful" passengers foolishly attempt to run and jump into or out of the train when the doors were closing. Obviously, this is dangerous and those trying to board have fallen and injured themselves in the attempt. Luckily no one has died.
When the doors close, this means a train is ready to start moving. When those train doors begin to shut and the warning sound begins to beep it is already too lateâ€¦you are now catching the next train.
Never attempt to board (or exit) a moving train. To do so will result in your immediate expulsion from that train.
Be safe. Arrive to the platform on time. Never run. In this case, a mindless decision could be your last. It's just not worth it.
Stay Behind the Yellow Line
Always be aware of one's surroundings. For example, if you are standing near the yellow line on a very crowded station platform with people jostling to maneuver through the crowd, it is possible to be accidentally bumped off the platform. Also, trains passing the stations are not required to slow down if they are not scheduled to stop.
The wind generated by these passing trains can snatch a newspaper or hat very quickly, catching you off guard. Even worse, if a railcar happens to have a loose cable or a shifted load that inspections or detectors have failed to detect, they can cause harm to those who are crowding the edge of the platform. For your own safety, please stay back from the edge of the platform and remember that the yellow tactile strip is not intended to protect you from anything, it's only a minimal line of protection to prevent slip and fall accidents near the edges while boarding.
Passenger Emergency Intercom (PEI)
All of VRE's new train cars are equipped with passenger emergency intercoms (PEIs) in the event that a passenger needs to reach a train crew member immediately. The PEIs can be found on each end of every train car, in the aisle adjacent to the stairwell. To alert and speak with a train crew, push the red button. In order to identify the exact train car in which you are riding so that the train crew will know where you're located, look above the red button for an identifying number, i.e., “V863, A-End.”
Operation Lifesaver is an organization designed around rail safety. Below are some of Operation Lifesaver's common sense precautions and important tips to ALWAYS keep in mind when traveling by car or by foot anywhere near a railroad station or track:
- Freight trains do not travel on a predictable schedule; schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at every highway-rail intersection.
- Train tracks are private property, no matter which railroad owns them. Trains have the right of way 100 percent of the time — over ambulances, fire engines, cars, the police and pedestrians.
- If there are rails on the railroad ties, assume that the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks “rusty.”
- 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.
- A train may extend three feet or more outside the steel rail, which makes the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the rails themselves.
- Trains cannot stop quickly. It is a simple law of physics: the huge weight and size of the train and the speed of the train dictate how quickly it can stop under ideal conditions. A 100-car freight train traveling at 55 miles per hour will need more than a mile to stop — that's approximately 18 football fields — once the train is set into emergency braking.
- Stop, look, and listen. Modern trains are quieter than ever, with no tell tale “clackety-clack” sound. Also, an approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think.
- Trains can move in either direction at any time. Trains are sometimes pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled. This is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
- Cross tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.
- Never walk down a train track; it's illegal and it's dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer can see a trespasser or a vehicle on the tracks, it is too late. The train cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
For more information about Operation Lifesaver's mission and educational resources, please visit www.oli.org.