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What if the Train Horn Rule doesn’t protect you?

Railroad crossings are pretty dangerous places. It’s commonplace for there to be lights that illuminate and bars that come down at significant intersections and bigger cities here in West Virginia. These alert or safety systems aren’t as abundant in smaller towns like Nitro, though. It’s in areas like these that it’s good that the Train Horn Rule, or 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 222, exists. Federal regulators enacted this bill to protect innocent individuals from being struck by trains.

This legislation requires conductors to sound their train horns between 15 and 20 seconds before crossing through public crossings. The “good faith” rule applies in instances where a conductor can’t determine how far away they are from the railroad crossing. In cases like this, the conductor can give up to 25 seconds of notice before arriving at the crossing.

There is an exception to this time rule. Any engineer traveling over 60 miles per hour (MPH) only has to sound their horn once they’ve made it within one-quarter of a mile of the railroad crossing, even if that means that they end up providing less than 15 seconds notice of their approach.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration officials requires train conductors to provide notice of their approach. The law requires them to provide two long blasts followed by a single short and long one. The conductor must repeat this same pattern until the lead car has made it into the crossing. This law also stipulates how powerful the horn that conductors use must be. It must produce between a 96 and 110 decibel sound. This legislation doesn’t specify how long the different blasts must last, though.

Federal lawmakers do have a provision in place that allows local officials to establish specific areas as quiet zones. It’s at these crossings that railroad conductors may not have to sound their horns. Federal officials do require local ones to institute risk mitigation measures, though.

The area in and around railroad crossings where there’s significant pedestrian traffic or minimal safety measures to warn motorists of approaching trains is often where catastrophic incidents occur. An attorney may advise you of your right to file suit against a conductor and their employer if their failure to activate warning devices resulted in you getting hurt here in Nitro or anywhere else in West Virginia.