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Respect the Train

April 23, 2019

Rail trespassing is one of the top safety issues for transit organizations across the country.

SEPTA reminds the Greater Philadelphia Region that respecting the train is not just for pedestrians — rail safety is important for motorists driving near tracks, too.

According to Operation Lifesaver Inc., railroad grade crossing collisions across the country rose 4.3 percent in 2018, resulting in 270 fatalities.

Earlier this month, an unfortunate reminder of the importance of this issue occurred at a grade crossing on the Media/Elwyn Line. It's important to know your signs and signals and the law:

Passive signs and active traffic control devices are installed along roads that cross railroad tracks both on the approach and at the highway-rail grade crossing to regulate, warn or guide traffic.

They alert drivers to the presence of railroad tracks and to the possibility of an approaching train. These signs and devices also provide a safety message and remind the driver of the laws regarding highway-rail grade crossings.

Passive Signs: Signs that alert motorists that they are approaching a highway-rail grade crossing.

Active Signs: Electronic devices that warn the motorist of the approach, or presence, of rail traffic at grade crossings

In Pennsylvania, the law states that the driver of a vehicle approaching a railroad crossing must stop within 50 feet but no less than 15 feet under the following circumstances: (1) a clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a railroad train; (2) a crossing gate is lowered or a flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach of a railroad train; (3) a railroad train approaching within approximately 1,500 feet of the highway crossing emits a signal audible from that distance; and (4) the railroad train, by reason of its speed or nearness to the crossing, is a hazard.

Given both the speed and mass of trains, the consequences of failing to stop at a crossing may be disastrous. This is why the Commonwealth has made failure to stop at railroad crossings a very serious offense – carrying 4 points on your license. The points, along with a fine amounting up to $500, makes this one of the more significant traffic tickets in Pennsylvania.

On May 1, 2019, SEPTA will hold its seventh annual system-wide Safety Day. The Authority is kicking off the event early at the Butler Pike grade crossing at Ambler Station, to stress the importance of thinking about railroad safety every day by obeying grade crossings and crossing signals.

SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel and SEPTA System Safety will be at Ambler Station on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 11a to discuss the importance of obeying railroad grade crossings and crossing signals.

Ambler Station is located at 35 W. Butler Pike, Ambler, PA 19002.