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Railroad Safety: What Florida Drivers Should Know


When it comes to the risk of personal injury, not all modes of transportation are created equal.  For example, in 2020 the state of Florida recorded 340,926 accidents.  Compare that statistic to the 452 civilian deaths recorded on airplanes in all of the United States in 2019, and it is easy to see that some modes of transportation carry a higher risk of personal injury and even death relative to others.

Florida residents may be wondering, “Where do trains fit into the conversation?”  For generations, trains have been relied upon to transport people and goods across vast distances.  Because trains are bound to their tracks, they are inherently resistant to sudden changes in behavior from conductors.  However, unexpected events outside of the conductor’s control can suddenly make the risk of a train accident much more likely.

When Florida drivers attempt to circumvent the crossing rail that lowers when a train is near, disaster can occur.  In fact, Florida is home to one of the most dangerous railways in America, named Brightline.  In response, Florida has recently decided to commit millions of dollars to decrease the risk of personal injury and death from railway accidents in the state.

Florida law has established clear statutes related to the safe operation and maintenance of railway crossings in the state.  Although drivers may in some cases act in a negligent manner that leads to an accident, when railway companies fail to adhere to mandated safety precautions that lead to personal injury or death, drivers will likely want to take legal action.  This article should be considered a primer on Florida railway safety laws.

Railway Crossing Warnings 

The Florida law sets clear guidelines for railway companies when it comes to warning signs.  The universally recognized “crossbuck” grade-crossing signs must be erected and maintained at each crossing, public and private.  In addition, warning signs and pavement markings must be installed and maintained well in advance of the actual crossing.

Clearance for Emergency Vehicles 

In the event that an emergency vehicle needs to cross a railway crossing and a train is currently blocking passage, Florida law makes it clear what action should be taken.  Trains must be cut, separated, or moved to clear the crossing for emergency vehicles.  These vehicles include ambulances, fire engines, government vehicles, and any other vehicle recognized and defined as engaged in the saving of life or property.

Railway Safety Inspections 

The Florida Department of Transportation is required under Florida law to employ competent safety inspectors to routinely examine the physical integrity of tracks and all the related supportive equipment.  All railway inspectors are required to meet the Federal Railroad Administration’s qualifications for employment, otherwise the railway operators may lose their qualifications for state and federal funds.

When to Contact Legal Professionals 

Of all traffic accidents, perhaps none is more jarring and traumatic than those between trains and passenger motor vehicles.  Florida is a comparative negligence state, meaning that if drivers act in a reckless manner (e.g. purposely disobeying warning signs), they may face difficulty obtaining compensation.  However, if an accident occurs due to the negligence of a railway operator, then drivers will want to contact a personal injury attorney. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the skilled Orlando personal injury attorneys at Payer Law for help today.


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