In a previous era, America fell in love with riding the rail. More recently, America fell in love with the automobile. Both trains and automobiles play an important role in our nation's history, helping us to truly become one nation by connecting us from coast to coast. Both continue to play an important role in our current economy; the number of cars on our roadways seems to increase every day, and trains are vital to transporting people and goods on a local, national, and even international level. However, when railways and roadways meet, there is the potential for danger, a fact we see in our work as your Panama City law firm for train crossing accidents.
A fall weekend turned tragic when, as detailed by WJHG, a driver mistakenly believed he could beat an oncoming train across the tracks. At approximately 9:00 A.M. on Saturday September 21, 25-year-old Uriel Paredes-Rodriguez was driving north on South Rosebud Avenue. Paredes-Rodriquez, who lives in Freeport, decided that he could beat a train through a rail crossing located at U.S. 90 in Crestview. He sadly misjudged and, as troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol reported, the CSX train collided with the 2003 Chevy Avalanche.
The passenger side impact caused the pickup truck to overturn. 16-year-old passenger Manuel Rodriquez of Santa Rosa Beach, who had not been wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle. Along with a second passenger, both young men were taken to North Okaloosa Medical Center. As of late Saturday night, Rodriquez was listed in serious condition. Officials have charged Paredes-Rodriquez with violating a railroad crossing and driving with a passenger under age 18 who was not wearing a seatbelt.
In a "Facts and Statistics" page, the Federal Highway Administration's ("FHWA") Office of Safety notes that there were 136,041 public at-grade crossings in the United States as of December 2009. According to the FHWA, in 2009 there were a total of 1,896 incidents at public highway-rail crossings nationwide. These incidents left 705 people injured and caused 247 fatalities.
The FHWA also provides a safety tip sheet for drivers navigating highway-rail crossings. Drivers should always expect that a train could be coming on any track at any time and should look up and down the tracks, even if they don't hear a train whistle or other warning signal. Drivers should also be alert to visual obstructions or weather issues that could block their view of an oncoming train. Be extra cautious when judging the speed and distance of an approaching train.
Perhaps the most important tip is this: "If in doubt, be safe. Stop and wait." Never cross if there isn't ample space for your vehicle on the other side of the track (ex. traffic is backed up and you have room to drive onto but not past the tracks). Likewise, know your vehicle, and do not attempt to cross tracks if your vehicle has insufficient ground clearance to make it over the tracks.
Accidents are often avoidable. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a train crossing accident in Northwest Florida and someone else was to blame, you may be entitled to money damages. This money can help you pay bills, cope with lost income, and confront future expenses that may stem from the accident. You may also be entitled to damages for pain and suffering. Call our office to arrange a free meeting and discuss your case with our Panama City accident attorney.