What it's like to have your vehicle stuck on the tracks...

For drivers, a great deal of danger exists at level crossings. Racing a train, ignoring the signs and signals present at a level crossing and driving around the barriers are all unsafe behaviours that could get you killed. [caption id="attachment_6673" align="alignright" width="300"] Thomas McHugh[/caption] You could also be killed if your vehicle gets stuck on the tracks. Today we’d like to share Thomas McHugh’s story with you. He experienced this firsthand and describes in his own words what it was like. First some background: Thomas, 18, lives in London, Ontario and is a student at Fanshawe College. Last July, just after he’d obtained his G2 driver’s licence, he found his Jeep trapped on the tracks while driving with friends to go swimming at a quarry.

Here’s what happened next:

As soon as my car could no longer move, I realized I had a huge problem: my car was stuck on live train tracks and I had no idea when the next train was coming. So I called 9-1-1. I was in such a panic and had no idea what was going to happen. The phone operator helped me out tremendously by calming me down and keeping me on the phone line. She then called the train operator and had them stop all trains and had me move as far away from the tracks as possible. Police officers showed up on the scene and helped me. One of the officers was able to pull my car off the tracks, which relieved me of a lot of stress and nervousness. I have never experienced something as scary as having my vehicle stuck on live train tracks.

What this experience taught him

The Operation Lifesaver program has greatly assisted me in realizing the troubles I caused to train workers that day. When this incident happened I only thought of how it impacted me personally, but many more people were impacted. I caused all types of problems with the railway by forcing them to go into an unscheduled stop. I now know that it takes up to two kilometres to stop a train and when the conductor is notified someone or something is stuck on the track, they have no idea if it’s within the two kilometres or not. I also know now that I caused problems with the railway’s scheduling. Some of the workers could have had personal things to do after their shift that I probably delayed. On this day, so soon after I got my licence, when I was feeling carefree and what I would describe as “invincible”, I experienced a major life lesson. Being only 18 years of age, this was a major scare and it really helped me put things into perspective. Something as simple as just thinking before taking action would have greatly benefited me.

Make rail safety part of your driver training

Thomas was lucky. He could have been killed. His story underscores the need for new drivers (and really all drivers) to include rail safety in their driver training. Operation Lifesaver offers rail safety materials for new drivers available for download. This includes detailed instructions on what to do if you find your vehicle stuck on the tracks. Please share them with the young drivers in your life. And check out our Public-Rail Safety Guide (PDF) for rail safety information that will keep you alive whether in your car or on foot!