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Rail News: Communication and Signal

Federal Highway Administration calls on states to install stop or yield signs at 'passive' crossings, AAR says


A nudge from the rail industry has prompted a government agency to take action to improve grade crossing safety. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is encouraging states to install a stop or yield sign at crossings, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). About 60 percent of the nation’s crossings don’t have flashing warning lights and gates.

Recent studies have shown a majority of motorists don’t understand the meaning of a crossbuck sign as well as yield and stop signs.

“Drivers need to know they should yield or stop to look for oncoming trains,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a prepared statement. “Only one in five motorists today understands that the crossbuck is a warning sign.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General found driver error or poor judgment caused 94 percent of public crossing accidents and 87 percent of fatalities.

Two years ago, the rail industry asked the FHWA to encourage states to install yield and stop signs. State highway departments govern the installation of signs or warning devices at crossings. Although the FHWA’s call to states is voluntary, the rail industry wants stop or yield signs to be a mandatory requirement.

In January, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a law requiring yield signs at crossbuck-only protected crossings.