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What are railroad safety requirements in railroad quiet zones?


This blog recently discussed a tragic Oklahoma City area train accident that recently claimed the life of a pedestrian. As some municipalities in Oklahoma transition into railway quiet zones, Oklahoma residents may have questions about the requirements trains must satisfy and rules they must follow concerning train and railroad safety and providing notice to citizens when approaching.

In general, according to the "train horn rule," railway engineers must sound train horns not more than 20 seconds but at least 15 seconds prior to approaching all public grade crossings. There are some good faith exceptions and exceptions for trains travelling greater than 60 miles per hour that still require sounding and notice on a modified schedule.

The number and duration of horn blasts is specified and must continue until the lead locomotive enters the grade crossing. The decibel level of the sound must range between 96 and 110 decibels. Communities can establish quiet zones wherein trains do not sound their horns when approaching highway-rail grade crossings. However, communities that establish quiet zone areas must first take measures to mitigate the risk created by discontinued use of the train horns. In quiet zone areas, horns are still used in emergency circumstances and when Federal regulations require use of the horn.

Victims of train accidents who believe that the negligence of a party associated with the railroad or railway safety caused the train accident should be familiar with the legal options available to them. Victims of train accidents, and their families, have a number of different protections that they may wish to become familiar with following a train accident.

Source: U.S. Department of Safety Federal Railroad Administration, "The Train Horn Rule and Quiet Zones," Accessed January 17, 2016

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