(Dunkirk, New York – Jan. 16, 2011) “On Wednesday morning, (Jan. 12) Texas tractor-trailer driver Randolph Todd, 51, died attempting to go through the crossing gates on Middle Road that, according to witnesses on the scene, had been down for at least 10 minutes. According to the Chautauqua County Observer, the accident occurred while the truck driver was on his way to the Nestle-Purina plant. In a January 13 editorial, the Observer requested “the assistance of readers in letting The Observer know – and communicating to area railroad officials – about the dangers and malfunctions of crossings at railroad tracks”. The Observer was inundated with e-mails and comments as a result of its request. One truck driver wrote in: “Everyone has experienced the malfunction of the crossing.” A Nestle-Purina employee also wrote: “[o]n Wednesday morning the gates were down when I left the Nestle Purina plant at 8:04, and other employees have mentioned they were down for more than 20 minutes before this accident.” “There have been times when I stop for the lowered gate, and once they go up and I start crossing the tracks, they come down again, only to raise again with no train traffic. It’s a frightening situation, and dangerous.” Numerous other railroad crossing signal malfunctions were reported and chronicled by the newspaper staff.
Railroad crossings that continually malfunction pose an extreme and unnecessary risk of causing a highway-railroad crossing accident. Too often the railroad makes a concerted effort to place the blame on a driver who is injured or killed at these railroad crossings even though the railroad has the legal duty to fix these dangerous crossings. In the case above, blame will surely be leveled at the truck driver for attempting to drive through the crossing gates. However, the Railroad is responsible for making sure their crossings are providing accurate and reliable warning of an oncoming train. Litigating these types of cases takes a railroad accident attorney who is knowledgeable of the types tactics railroads use. Taking on the multi-million dollar railroad industry also requires that an attorney be especially knowledgeable about the rules and regulations of the railroad industry.