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What can we do to prevent deadly car accidents at train crossings?

It's clear that automobiles are the chief mode of transportation in America. But even through cars and trucks reign supreme, there are other important modes of transportation in use as well, including trains. Unfortunately, the thousands of points where auto traffic and train traffic intersect are far more dangerous than most of us realize.

A chilling example was the early February accident in Valhalla, New York. Six people were killed when an SUV was struck by a Metro-North commuter train. This and other high-profile accidents have spurred some politicians to push for resources to improve or eliminate these dangerous "grade crossings," where roads and rail lines intersect one another at ground level.

U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney from New York recently participated in the progress of a bill that would provide funding for local communities to decide how to address their own dangerous grade crossings. The $300 million in funds would allow local governments to eliminate certain crossings and add safety enhancements to others. Maloney cited statistics showing that in 2014 alone, there were approximately 267 deaths at grade crossings in the United States.

Rep. Maloney also announced his plans to seek help and research from the Federal Railroad Administration. He said he'll ask the agency to determine which grade crossings are the most dangerous and to propose effective improvements.

Intersection crashes continue to be a major hazard even when they involve only automobiles. When trains and automobiles intersect at grade crossings - often erratically and without much warning - the results can be catastrophic.

Source: San Jose Mercury News, "NY congressman asking feds to investigate railroad crossings," Jim Fitzgerald, March 17, 2015

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