The Book of Good Living: How to Avoid Being Killed By A Train

TrainMetro-North Train Hits S.U.V., Killing 7 in Railroad’s Deadliest Accident

When a train hits a car, it’s pretty much never the train’s fault. If you just arrived on this planet, here are some tips on How to Avoid Being Killed By A Train:

1) Look for the big silvery steel rails, spaced about four feet apart. They will run for miles in each direction to your left and right. The rails themselves are a huge warning sign, and if all else fails, they will be there. However …

2) Where the big silvery rails cross the road, there will be a signal, likely a pole with red lights on it, and the red lights will flash when a train approaches. A loud bell will ring at the same time – Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding!!

3) Attached to the pole with the lights are these long metal barricades that will come down and block the intersection. The metal barricades are marked with bright colors, reflective tape and, often, flashing lights. Don’t drive around the barricades.

4) Trains are loud. An approaching freight train sounds like … well, an approaching freight train. Listen for the sound.

5) Unless you are in an actual coma, you will see and hear these warning signals, and the train. Get the hell out of the way, and stay the hell out of the way.

6) When you approach an intersection where a train crosses, pay attention to traffic and think ahead so that you never stop on the tracks. If you do stop on the tracks, you and everybody in your car may die. Probably best to just avoid stopping on the tracks.


7) Trains are so massive they can’t just stop when the engineer sees you. Compared to automobile brakes, which actually halt the vehicle in some reasonable distance, train brakes are a sort of suggestion to the train, something like “Okay, let’s start slowing down now, and maybe in a mile or two we’ll think about stopping.” If the engineer of the train comes around a curve and sees you on the tracks, he goes “Oh, look, there’s another dopey bastard about to be killed by a train. Huh.” And then he applies the brakes.

8) Trains are fast because people who ride trains, or ship freight by trains, want them to be fast. If you stop your car on the tracks, and a train comes, it’s going to hit the car. And you. And everybody else in the car. You will all die, and you will have closed-casket funerals because it will be ugly.

9) If you stop on the tracks and you see a train coming, encourage your passengers to leap out and run away to the side, but whatever else you do, you as the driver should stay in the car. Because you deserve what’s about to happen, you brainless sonofabitch.

10) Just hope you don’t get a bunch of other people killed while you’re about it.

  • Eli

    For some reason, the tracks through my parents’ town don’t have barricades or even lights at every intersection, and it’s not some rural area, but the middle of the residential downtown area. The trains are prohibited from going fast through town, but still.

  • Pofarmer

    It’s not like you can’t predict where the train is going to be. With that said though, there are unregulated rural crossings, and agricultural machinery is loud too, and sometimes there are obstructions to vision, and, well, it happens,

  • Michael Davis

    With rare exceptions in these times, most train “accidents” are totally avoidable. But then I am amazed every day about all the “accidents” that happen, like people texting or mindlessly walking in traffic listening to music with earbuds in, etc. A kid skateboards down 8 lanes of traffic and gets killed? That’s an accident? People are just stupid. And it’s got nothing to do with age. Just look at the grandfather texting in the car next to you while both of you sail along at 80 plus on the expressway…..unreal!

  • I grew up in a town which is little known to the world, but known as a way-station to wealthy New Yorkers on their recreational trips North. What most of these people have likely not seen is the crossing where people who I spent some time with in my childhood had their houses (fairly nice homes by the way, not the typical half-abandoned redneck squats) only an eigth of a mile away. No lights, no sirens, nothing other than a horribly obstructed view and the sounds of an approaching train to warn you when you are about to die. A good number of them worked at the nearby brick plant 30 years ago. Since there was nobody other than plant workers and the few who just liked their quaint old houses where they were since the railroad went up who used that crossing, it just wasn’t important enough for Conrail to pay more attention to. Those people who lived there, their friends, and plant workers were second-classed for safety concerns! If you are going to operate your railroad across somebody’s active road, you should be held liable for not taking consistent measures to ensure their safety as much as anybody’s!