NTSB Acting Chairman Testifies on Railroad Grade Crossing Safety Issues

National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker testified recently before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Railroads, emphasizing his extreme concern that accidents and fatalities still occur at unacceptable levels at the nation’s grade crossings.

Before the Subcommittee, Rosenker discussed the Safety Board’s findings and recommendations on train whistle audibility and passive grade crossing safety.

He stated that the Board has long been interested in the adequacy of a train’s audible warning system to alert motorists to the train’s presence at grade crossings. In examining this issue in a variety of accidents, the Acting Chairman stated, the Board found that while train horns can be effective, they could also fail to communicate the intended warning. He continued to state that the Board’s recommendation for in-vehicle warning systems can help enhance safety at passive grade crossings and are a potential solution to the audibility problem that drivers encounter.

There are currently more than 3, 000 accidents at grade crossings, of which about half occur at passive grade crossings. Rosenker described the Board’s recommendations in a 1998 study, and said that placing a stop sign at a passive crossing, a clear, unambiguous message is sent to the driver so that the driver knows both where the crossing is and what action must be taken.