What to Do When Your Car Stalls on the Tracks

February 4, 2015 Updated: February 4, 2015

If your car stalls on train tracks, do not, we repeat, do not take your time trying to bring the engine back to life.

The Tuesday deadly train accident, where a Metro-North train smashed into a stalled SUV killing the driver and six more near Valhalla, NY, highlights the need to repeat the advice offered by multiple traffic safety experts–get out of the car!

If your car gets stuck in the middle of train tracks get yourself and all other passengers out of the car and run at about a 45-degree angle towards the train and away from the tracks. As the train bulldozes through your vehicle, you want to avoid the debris which would fly in the direction the train is going in. When you’re far enough, call 911 or, if available, the railway emergency line.

It’s also prudent to maintain a healthy respect for trains. Here are some suggestions:

Before crossing tracks, assume there’s a train coming. Trains can travel at speeds of 80 mph, meaning they come faster than they seem to. Never try to beat the train to the crossing or cross when signals are on. When in traffic, be careful not to get stuck in the middle of train tracks in grid lock. Wait until it’s clear on the other side before crossing the tracks.

If you really get stuck on the tracks, never assume the train can stop in time. Even at 50 mph, it takes a mile to stop a train. Experience shows it’s next to impossible to stop a train in time even if the car is spotted in advance.

Don’t assume the engine will come back on. However irrational it may seem, experience shows people under pressure can suddenly fail to perform the simplest tasks, such as starting a car.

Don’t linger to gather your belongings. You may grab whatever is within reach, but forget about the stuff in the trunk or on the back seat.