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What does the law say about approaching a train crossing?

You are driving on a California road when you spot a railroad crossing up ahead. If the gate is not dropped down, you might think you have no problem driving over the tracks. However, depending on the vehicle you drive, the law could require you to exercise greater caution while approaching a railroad crossing even if no train is approaching.

According to California law, there are specific conditions that require a driver to stop before reaching a railroad crossing. Under these conditions, you must stop your vehicle at a distance no less than fifteen feet from the crossing. Many people know to stop at a crossing when a train is approaching. In addition to a dropped gate, the sound of a train's horn or whistle is an easy signal that a train is coming. Furthermore, blinking red lights and crossing bells can signal to a driver to stop at a crossing.

However, even if none of these signs exist and a crossing appears to be all clear, under California law there are some vehicles that must stop before a crossing and check for signs of an approaching train before driving forward. These include certain vehicles that are carrying passengers, including school buses with students, buses with passengers on board, and farm labor vehicles and trucks that are ferrying employees.

Additionally, drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous chemicals are required to stop before reaching a crossing. For instance, you would have to stop if you were driving a motor vehicle that carries chlorine or a flammable substance. In some cases, federal regulations require commercial vehicles to have placards or markings. These vehicles must also stop before continuing through a crossing.

Even with these special conditions, it is wise for any motorist to be absolutely sure that no train is approaching before passing over a railroad crossing. The impact of an oncoming train can inflict severe injury or death upon a motorist and passengers. Wait until all signs of a coming train have cleared before driving through a crossing.

Keep in mind that while this article provides educational value on the subject of trains and motor vehicle accidents, it does not offer any legal advice.

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