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Officials offer safety tips after fatal Montana train vs. vehicle crash

Posted at 10:04 AM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 12:04:47-05

BOZEMAN – A train vs. vehicle crash between Belgrade and Manhattan last week left one man dead.

Train tracks cover the state of Montana, transporting products from to domestic and international markets daily. As trains are continuously traveling around the state, it increases the possibility of a dangerous crossing.

“Pay attention to what type of crossing it is, to begin with. A lot of us get really used to the really busy ones where they have the crossing arms and flashing lights, but there are so many crossings in Montana that don’t,” Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Patrick McLaughlin said. “They may have crossbucks, just the X’s indicating the railroad tracks are there, may have a stop sign.”

Being aware of a train coming is important because it’s easier for a vehicle to prevent a crash than it is for a train.

“By the time the crew would see a person or a vehicle disabled on the tracks or on the tracks in some other way, they can initiate an emergency braking application and sound the whistle, but often times it would take more than a mile for a train to come to a complete stop,” said Ross Lane, chief communications officer for Montana Rail Link.

Montana Rail Link wants people to keep the following in mind:

  • Taking photos on train tracks can be deadly and is illegal.
  • Only cross at a designated crossing.
  • Never hunt, fish, or jump from trestles; there’s only enough clearance on the tracks for the train to pass.
  • Any time is train time; trains do not follow set schedules.
  • Slow down, look, and listen.

McLaughlin added, “The biggest issue we get is, it’s a crossing they use all the time, and so familiarity tends to breed apathy.”

Lane and McLaughlin both said incidents like last Thursday’s do not happen very often.

-Emma Hamilton reporting for MTN News