Among the most tragic pedestrian accidents occur at railroad crossings. To sort out the liability afterward is no consolation to the victims; it is necessary for the law to deal with questions of responsibility. Rules of comparative negligence apply, but there are jury instructions that act as guideposts. Wisconsin laws for pedestrian right of way do not by default favor the pedestrian. Every situation is different and a pedestrian at a railroad crossing are found in WCJI 1337.5:
1337.5 STOP: PEDESTRIAN CROSSING RAILROAD TRACKS
A safety statute requires that a pedestrian may not enter or cross a railroad crossing:
(a) While any traffic officer or railroad employee signals to stop;
(b) While any warning device signals to stop, except that, if the pedestrian, after stopping and investigating, finds that no railroad train or railroad track equipment is approaching, the pedestrian may proceed.
(c) If any crossbuck sign is maintained at the crossing, while a railroad train or railroad track equipment occupies the crossing or approaches so closely to the closing as to be a hazard of collision.
The statute also provides that a pedestrian may not cross through, around, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing, while the gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed. The statute also provides that a pedestrian may not cross through or around or climb over or under a railroad train or railroad track equipment while the railroad train or railroad track equipment occupies a railroad crossing.
A walker or runner must be on constant look out for his or her own safety. Apart from the law, practically speaking what can be done to help prevent crossing accidents?
A recent New York Times article pointed at there are approximately 130,000 public and 85,000 private railroad crossings across the country. Despite accidents reducing about 80% since the 1970s, they increased beginning in 2015. This increase has prompted the railroad interests to seek new ways to stem this longstanding hazard through technology. In 2015, 270 people died in highway-rail collisions and 843 people were injured, according to federal safety statistics.
Google indicates it will include information from the United States Department of Transportation’s vast database to pinpoint every rail crossing in the country in Google Maps. Google will also add audio and visual alerts to the app for when drivers use the turn-by-turn navigation feature. This does not help pedestrians at crossings but it is a step in the right direction.
McCormick Law Office attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents pedestrians and vehicle occupants injured in accidents at railroad crossing for medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering.