Stuck on the train track? You’ve got 12 seconds to react in Connecticut

(WTNH)–The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating why an SUV ended up on the tracks in Valhalla, New York trapped between the crossing gates killing the driver and five people on the Metro-North train. It’s the deadliest collision in Metro-North history.

Would you know what to do if you found yourself stuck on the railroad tracks in Connecticut between crossing gates with a train barreling towards you? In Connecticut, should you ever find yourself in that fateful position, you only have twelve seconds to react.

It’s just seconds of time that haunts Will Metzermacher. His grandmother, 61 year old Patricia Metzermacher, and his two young cousins 8 year old Zachery and 4 year old Courtney were killed at a crossing in Waterford, CT when an Amtrak train hit their car going 70 miles per hour. It happened nearly ten years ago in September of 2005 and is still fresh in Will’s mind. He tells News 8, “It’s (the crossing) right down the road, it’s always there, you always have that reminder of hearing that train go by, it’s hair raising on your neck.”

In the last 10 years in CT, trains have killed 7 people and injured 32. And in the past year rail accidents in Connecticut have tripled. Connecticut’s Department of Transportation Engineer Stephen Curley tells News 8 there’s a total of at least 29 seconds in standard of timing at crossings across the state from when the train triggers a circuit to cue the warning lights and bells to when the train passes the crossing. Curley says once the railroad crossing arms settle in their down position there are just 12 seconds before the barreling train arrives on the tracks.

Sgt. Shane Hassett, Connecticut State Police spokesman, says if you find yourself caught between the gates, go around those gates as fast as you can. The gates are also made of fiberglass and will break away if you have to drive through them. But if your car stops working, Hassett says, “immediately get out of vehicle and run from vehicle at 45 degree angle towards the train, so if the train hits your car and explodes you’re not hit by those parts exploding from your vehicle.” Experts say a speeding train can push a car up to a mile away from the collision.

In CT, less than half of the 366 railroad crossings have lights and crossing gates.
But warnings aren’t always the issue, the federal railroad administration reports half of crossing accidents nationwide still happen even with warning devices in place.

Bottom line, you have to stay alert. How you react in those twelve seconds can make all the difference between life and death.

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