PUC encourages motorists/pedestrians to think safety first at all railroad crossings
Joshua B. Epel, Chairman
Pamela J. Patton, Commissioner
Glenn A. Vaad, Commissioner
DENVER - (March 19, 2015) - Motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists are reminded to always think safety first when approaching any highway-rail crossing in Colorado. Accidents at freight rail and light rail crossings have increased significantly since 2010, according to statistics provided to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
And the opening of new light rail and commuter rail corridors in the Denver metro area, along with expected growth in rail freight traffic throughout Colorado, means more interaction between trains and people in the near future.
In 2010, there were 35 freight and light rail crossing accidents in Colorado; in 2014 that number jumped to 59 accidents. While light rail accidents are limited to the Denver metropolitan area, freight rail accidents are more common in more rural areas of the state. Since 2010, 219 accidents have occurred at freight rail and light rail crossings in Colorado, resulting in 14 fatalities and 50 injuries.
“All pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle drivers need to be alert and safe around all freight rail and light rail crossings,” said Dr. Pam Fischhaber, chief of the PUC’s Rail/Transit Safety section. “Any distraction could be potentially dangerous and life-threatening.”
The PUC is the primary state agency responsible for safety at all public highway-rail crossings in Colorado, as well as all rail fixed guideway systems (light rail) within the state.
People approaching an at-grade rail crossing in a vehicle, or on foot, should always expect a train at a railroad crossing at any time, on any track, from any direction, Fischhaber said. And they should always look both directions for a train at any railroad crossing.
Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization providing public education programs in all 50 states to prevent collisions, injuries and fatalities on and around railroad tracks and highwayrail grade crossings, offers free safety presentations to any group or organization.
To request a presentation from Colorado Operation Lifesaver, call 303-739-3677 or email Coloradolifesaver@gmail.com. Or visit the organization’s website at www.OLI.org and click on the “Request a Safety Presentation” link at the top of the page.
Rail Crossing Safety Tips for everyone:
- Always expect a train at a railroad crossing at any time, on any track, from any direction;
- Always look both directions for a train at any railroad crossing. Rail Crossing Safety Tips for drivers:
- Don’t drive around crossing gates – it is both unsafe and illegal to do so in Colorado;
- It is both unsafe and illegal in Colorado to stop or allow yourself to become trapped on tracks. Proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping;
- Always obey warning signs at a railroad crossing whether they are passive (signs) or active (flashing lights, gates, bells).
Rail Crossing Safety Tips for pedestrians and bicyclists:
- Be alert and aware when you are around railroad tracks and at light rail and commuter rail train stations;
- Don’t wear headphones or stare at your phone when you are around railroad crossings;
- Always obey safety warnings whether they are passive (signs) or active (flashing lights, gates, bells, pedestrian swing gates);
- Don’t trespass on railroad or light rail tracks.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) serves the public interest by effectively regulating utilities and facilities so that the people of Colorado receive safe, reliable, and reasonably-priced services consistent with the economic, environmental and social values of our state.
The Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit www.dora.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7855 / toll free 1-800-886-7675.