Collisions involving cars and trains in Oklahoma were deadly during 2014. The Federal Railroad Administration and Operation Lifesaver Inc. indicated that 45 accidents took place at rail crossings in the state that year, killing 12 people and injuring 21. Roughly 50% of these accidents took place at crossings where X-shaped railroad crossing signs or stop signs existed, but there were no specific warnings to alert drivers to the presence of an oncoming train. (One took place on a private road where no type of sign existed.) These warning signs, such as mechanical arms to bar motorists and flashing lights, might have prevented some of last year’s accidents.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation recently announced a plan to upgrade the safety of railroad crossings for motorists. The state plans work on 300 railroad crossings over the state, at a cost of $100 million. Oklahoma usually spends about $8 million annually on upgrades to railroad crossings, an amount that equates to 25 crossings annually. The planned new funds will allow Oklahoma to increase that number to 100 annually.
At least two sites where fatalities occurred last year are among those to be improved. One, in Blaine County, is on U.S. 270 where a Tecumseh man’s tractor-trailer collided with an oncoming train in early December. Another is on South Meridian Avenue in Oklahoma City, where a fatal accident occurred just before Christmas last year. The driver, who was uninjured, was charged with first-degree manslaughter as police believed that he was driving under the influence (DUI).