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For Immediate Release
Contact:  Matt Schilling
614 | 466 7750

PUCO promoting rail crossing safety across Ohio with safe crossing tips

COLUMBUS, OHIO (Nov. 21, 2013) – Ohio is a major crossroads for the railroad industry. Thousands of trains operate on nearly 5,300 miles of track and 5,800 public crossings, making Ohio the fifth leading state in terms of goods transported by rail. Being a leader in railroad traffic brings an even greater responsibility to ensure safety at highway-rail grade crossings.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), in conjunction with the Ohio Rail Development Commission, is responsible for ensuring the safety of motorists at highway-rail grade crossings in Ohio. The PUCO regularly inspects and evaluates railroad grade crossings and implements safety improvements at crossings across the state. The PUCO also approves funding for enhancing safety at highway-rail grade crossings.

However, despite significant gains in crossing safety in recent decades, more than half of the train-vehicle crashes in Ohio still occur at grade crossings that have active warning devices. To improve public awareness of this issue, the PUCO works in conjunction with other rail safety organizations to highlight the importance of rail-highway grade crossing safety.

Since the 1980’s the PUCO has worked to improve safety at Ohio’s public highway-rail grade crossings through education and outreach, crossing inspections, local funding opportunities and the installation of safety improvements at crossings across the state. Over this period of time, the annual number of train-vehicle crashes has decreased from more than 300 nearly two decades ago to 71 in 2012. Through October 2013, a total of 70 federal, state and locally funded safety upgrades have been ordered this year by the PUCO including the installation of lights and gates, supplemental assistance upgrades, circuitry upgrades and closings.

While the PUCO believes that active warning devices play an important role in rail crossing safety, there is much work to be done to educate motorists on how to safely travel across railroad crossings. The PUCO recommends these rail crossing safety tips:

Highway-Rail Grade Crossings: 10 Steps for Safety
  1. Approach with care. Warn others that you are slowing down. Turn on 4-way flashers. Use pull-out lane if available.
  2. Prepare to stop. Turn off fans and radio and roll down windows. Locate your cell phone for use in an emergency. Stop at least 15 feet, but not more than 50 feet, from nearest rail.
  3. Look and listen both ways, carefully. Bend forward to see around mirrors and A-pillars.
  4. If it won't fit, don't commit. Trains extend beyond the width of the rails at least three feet on each side. Remember your vehicle – and cargo – overhang.
  5. Look again. Before you move, look again in both directions.
  6. Cross tracks with care. Signal, watch for a safe gap, pull back onto the road if you used a pull-out lane. Use highest gear that will let you cross without shifting.
  7. Keep going once you start, even if lights start to flash or gates come down.
  8. Never drive around lowered gates. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
  9. At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
  10. Never race a train to the crossing. The train you see is closer and moving faster than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
What to do if your vehicle stalls or hangs up on the tracks
  1. Get out immediately. Evacuate your vehicle. (Trains traveling at 60 mph may take a mile or more to stop.)
  2. Move away. Walk toward the oncoming train, and away from the tracks at a 45-degree angle. (If your vehicle is hit, debris will spread out from the tracks in the same direction the train is moving.)
  3. Locate the emergency phone number. When you are safely away from the tracks, find the railroad’s emergency phone number and the Department of Transportation crossing identification number posted near the crossing.
  4. Call for help! Call the railroad’s emergency phone number, the local police or 911. Tell them a vehicle is on the tracks. Provide the location, crossing number (if posted) and the name of the road or highway that crosses the tracks.

For more information on rail crossing safety in Ohio, contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Ohioans can also call the toll-free Ohio Rail Hotline, at (866) 814-RAIL (7245), to obtain answers to all their rail questions.

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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business, and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.

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