Do you know what to do if your car is stuck on train tracks?

Imagine: you’re driving across railway tracks, when all of a sudden, your vehicle stalls. You’re stuck on the tracks and a train is barrelling towards you. It’s a terrifying scenario—but one every driver should know how to react to.

Just last month, a mother and her two children barely escaped tragedy when the SUV they were travelling in stalled on train tracks in Alliston, Ont. The train’s conductor was unable to stop before hitting their vehicle. Fortunately, the woman and her children were able to get out of harm’s way before it was too late.

Knowing what to do could save your life

So, what should you do if your vehicle gets stuck on the tracks? The first rule is simple: get yourself and your passengers out as quickly as you can and move to a safe distance (at least 30 metres away from the tracks). If a train is coming, experts also suggest running at a 45-degree angle away from the tracks, in the direction of the oncoming train, to avoid getting hit by debris from the collision. 

Next, contact the railway company and let them know there is a vehicle on the tracks. Most railways post their emergency numbers at crossings, either behind the crossbuck or on the signal house. If you can’t find the emergency number, call 911.

But the best way to avoid a tragedy is to prevent your vehicle from getting stuck on the tracks in the first place. If you’re sitting in traffic at a crossing, make sure there is enough room to clear the tracks before you move forward, so you don’t have to stop your vehicle in the middle of the tracks. If you’re driving a manual transmission, avoid shifting gears while crossing the tracks so that you don’t accidentally stall and get stuck.

Test your knowledge

Why not test your knowledge? Check out our Train to Drive training program, which includes scenarios involving vehicles stuck on the tracks. And go to our website for other driving-related rail-safety tips.