A 17-year-old girl was killed when a southbound Amtrak train hit her in Kent, Washington. The young girl was crossing the tracks while she was talking on her cell phone. Witnesses allege that the girl was simply not paying attention prior to the train accident, while she crossed the tracks.
However, cell phone usage was not the only issue at hand, as the surrounding area also made the tracks difficult to see because the tracks are surrounded by buildings and apartments, and the girl was hit at an unmarked crossing. Authorities say that this is the fifth fatality on Washington rails this year that involve unmarked railroad crossings.
Most marked railroad crossing include flashing lights and a gate, but in some remote areas, tracks may remain unmarked. It is, therefore, essential that everyone exercise caution when coming to railroad tracks of any nature, as surrounding circumstances, similar to the railroad accident above, may make it difficult to see a train.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) typically uses three types of traffic controlling devices at railroad crossings to alert those nearby of a train. The following lists the three devices and details driver responsibility when approaching them:
1. A crossbuck is a type of YIELD sign: the driver should be prepared to stop at least 4.5 m (15 ft) before the near rail if necessary, unless and until the driver can make a reasonable decision that there are no trains in hazardous proximity to the crossing, and it is safe to cross.
2. Operating flashing lights have the same function as a STOP sign: a vehicle is required to stop completely at least 4.5 m (15 ft) short of the near rail. Then, even though the flashing lights may still be operating, the driver is allowed to proceed after stopping (subject to State or local laws), when safe to do so.
3. Flashing lights with lowered gates are equivalent to a red vehicular traffic signal indication: a vehicle is required to stop short of the gate and remain stopped until the gates go up.
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