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Drive Carefully Near Caltrain Tracks

The commuter rail warns driver to take extra precautions during the dark, rainy winter months.

It only takes a second; a distraction; or unfamiliarity.

Officials with Caltrain, which operates along a railroad that has been on the Peninsula for nearly 150 years, wants drivers—and pedestrians—to be extra careful as they transit over tracks at street level that is, at-grade level.

In the Peninsula and South Bay Caltrain maintains 44 at-grade crossing on tis 52-mile corridor, according to a statement.

"Although all Caltrain crossings are equipped with crossing gates, signal lights and bells, drivers still need to exercise caution when driving through these crossings," the statement said.

In February 2011, an intoxicated woman drove her car onto the Caltrain's tracks in Mountain View and caused the tracks to close for three or four hours—but not before her car got clipped by a passing train.

But while that's one extreme another is a sober, unfamiliar driver, which appeared to be the case in the fatality of an Indiana woman visiting her family during Easter in Palo Alto.

As part of its comprehensive safety program, Caltrain’s Transit Police Bureau staffs a 24-hour safety hotline. Emergencies and suspicious activities can be reported to the Transit Police at 1.877.SAF-RAIL (1.877.723.7245). People who live or work near the Caltrain right of way can take the extra precaution of programming this number into their cell phones, Caltrain officials recommend.

If not, call 911. Emergency dispatchers have immediate access to Caltrain’s dispatching center.

Caltrain reminds drivers of these three important safety tips:

  • If red lights are flashing or if crossing arms have been lowered, stop. 

It is against the law to drive around gates that have been lowered at a railroad crossing. If the gates are down and no train is coming, the road is closed. If you believe that the gates are malfunctioning, call 1.877.SAF-RAIL (1.877.723.7245)

  • Never stop on the tracks.

If your car stalls or stops on the crossing for any reason, get yourself and any passengers out and away quickly. After moving a safe distance away from the train tracks, call 1.877.SAF-RAIL to report the incident. Train dispatchers will be able to stop trains approaching the crossing and help make arrangements to have your vehicle safely removed from the tracks.

  • Always expect a train, on any track, at any time and from any direction.

Caltrain operates 92 trains a day on weekdays. Trains operate on the tracks at other times than the posted timetable. For example, a train may have a mechanical problem that requires moving it to Caltrain’s maintenance facility in San Jose.

Caltrain is a member of Operation Lifesaver, an international rail safety organization. To make arrangements for a free rail safety presentation by a trained Operation Lifesaver presenter, call Tasha Bartholomew, community relations officer at 650.508.7927. 

Additional safety tips can be found on Caltrain’s website.

James Thurber December 23, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Enough people use Caltrain that, at some point, it might make sense to begin "removing" the auto crossings (put them overhead / underground or just close them). It would be costly but the advantages of encouraging people to use public transportation is great and, in my opinion, worth the cost.
Claudia Cruz December 23, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Thanks for your thought-provoking comment James. Yes, this dichotomy remains a roadblock to projects like high-speed rail. Who's right? Who knows? Perhaps it should be measured by what has to be sacrificed and if the sacrifice benefits the public good.
randy albin December 23, 2012 at 09:09 PM
over the years there have been numerous suicides and accidents involving caltrain. all of this creates local news. this is a good kind of transportation but always be careful when you are near the tracks. there needs to be lots of upgrades to public transportation, for sure
Frank Geefay December 24, 2012 at 01:14 AM
This is a great suggestion. This would allow the trains to run faster increasing efficiency and making Caltrain an even more attractive alternative to driving. I wonder how much it would cost to place overhead or underground bridge/tunnels at key intersections? This might not impact suicides but should reduce accidents and allow the train to run a bit faster. The electrification of Caltrain should help in its efficiency and smooth acceleration.
Claudia Cruz December 24, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Frank, I'll check back on the high-speed rail budget analysis for the cost of grade-separation. A city like Mountain View would want the money for the separation to come out of the HSR budget. It's obviously more expensive to have below-grade separations, but the aesthetics of above-grade tracks doesn't sit well with many communities.

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