Archive for category visibility

Always Expect a Train

Better regulations, enforcement, engineering, and training have greatly reduced train and motor vehicle collisions across the United States. In fact, collisions declined 83 percent from 12,000 in 1972 to 2,123 in 2017, significantly reducing fatalities and injuries. However, reaching zero collisions requires more education, especially on how to drive safely through railroad crossings.

While trains collide with trucks at railroad crossings far less than with cars, truck collisions can be much more severe. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data show that in the United States, 112 fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred at railroad crossings from 2010-2017. Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission data show that in Washington State, 67 railroad crossing collisions involved semi-trucks from 2010-2018. These incidents resulted in 2 deaths, 10 injuries, and many thousands of dollars in property damage.

Attempting to beat a train at a railroad crossing is always a bad decision that can cost your life. Trains are closer and faster than they may seem from a truck cab window. The average freight train traveling at 55 mph needs a mile or more to stop. By the time a train engineer sees you, it’s nearly always too late for them to fully stop before hitting you. The more you know about railroad crossing safety, the better prepared you’ll be to drive and thrive each day. Use the following tips to stay safe at highway-rail crossings.

Approaching and crossing train tracks:

  • Know your railroad crossing signs and signals.
  • Use only designated crossings.
  • Always expect a train when you approach a crossing.
  • Stop at least 15 feet away from a crossing.
  • Put away your cell phone, it’s illegal and can distract you from seeing or hearing a train.
  • Turn off your radio and fan so you can listen for approaching trains.
  • Look both ways before going through a crossing.
  • Never drive through a crossing unless you can clear it without stopping.
  • At a multiple track crossing, wait for the train to pass, then look both ways for other trains before driving on.
  • Never drive around lowered gates – it’s illegal and deadly.
  • Make sure that trailer landing gear is fully retracted to prevent getting stuck on crossings.

If your truck stalls or gets stuck:

  • Get yourself and any passengers out of the truck immediately.
  • If a train is coming, get out and move quickly toward the oncoming train and away from the tracks at a 45-degree angle. This is to protect you from being hit by debris that will fly in the same direction of the train’s path. 
  • When you are a safe distance from the tracks, call the 800 number on the blue Emergency Notification System sign at the crossing, or call 911 to alert trains of your location. Do this even if you do not see a train.

To report a rail crossing signal malfunction or other problem:

  • Call the 800 number on the blue Emergency Notification System sign at the crossing. Provide the location, crossing number (if posted), and the name of the road or highway that crosses the tracks.
  • Call the local police or 911 if you cannot locate the emergency phone number at the crossing.

Get free rail crossing safety training resources:

Keep Trucking Safe Railroad Crossing Safety Tip Sheet.

Operation Lifesaver’s Rail Safety Education for Professional Drivers includes railroad crossing safety information, videos, eLearnings and other training materials.

Federal Railroad Administration’s Emergency Notification System sign visor card here.

Federal Railroad Administration’s Rail Crossing Locator Mobile App lets users get information about specific railroad crossings in the United States. The app can also be used to report an emergency or safety concern about a railroad crossing.

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Washington State’s “Move Over” Law Changes, Makes Work Zones Safer

By: Paul Karolczyk

On June 7, Washington State traffic laws changed to improve roadway work zone safety. The new law requires drivers to proceed with due caution, slow down, and, if safe, move over or change lanes when approaching any authorized construction or maintenance vehicle or worker in a designated roadway work zone. The new rules describe work zones to include adjacent road lanes 200 feet before and after stationary or slow-moving construction, maintenance, solid waste, or utility service vehicles that display flashing or rotating lights that meet state requirements for vehicle warning light systems. Fines range from $136 for failing to move over to $1,000 for reckless endangerment offenses. Penalties can also include jail sentences and driver’s license suspensions. The changes follow House Bill 2087, which passed with full legislative support to expand the previous “move over law” for first responders and emergency vehicles.


Our mobility depends on the people who build, repair, and maintain highways, streets, and bridges. Every day their roadway work zones place them near serious hazards that include being dangerously close to motor vehicle traffic. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that passing vehicles killed 248 roadway construction workers between 2011 and 2016. That’s almost 1 fatality a week. Following the rules of the road will keep Washington State’s roadway workers alive and safe.


Find more information here:


House Bill 2087 Summary


RCW 46.61, Rules of the Road


RCW 46.61.212, Approaching emergency zones – Penalty – Violation


L&I DOSH roadway worker safety training resources:


Road construction work zone safety presentation


Flagger safety


Asphalt worker safety


WSDOT Work Zone Safety resources

Rain, rain, go away!

By Jena Williams


It looks like the rain isn’t going anywhere for a long while here in western Washington.

This morning a colleague relayed her commute into work to me – pouring rain, everyone driving crazy fast, cutting off trucks and each other; in other words, driving too fast for conditions. I get that Washingtonians feel impervious to rain and pride themselves on the idea that sheets of rain will not affect their driving.

I wish that were true. The fact of the matter is that wet roads have less traction as confirmed by the Federal Highway Administration and your own common sense. This means that unless you are a member of the Fast and Furious crew and have the help of Hollywood to defy the laws of nature, you will need extra stopping time.

So slow down and give trucks and yourself extra room to stop. Let’s all keep it safe out there.

To see or not to see

By Jena Williams

The other day, I passed a semi-truck and trailer stopped on the side of the road. The driver was out and nervously eyeing traffic while he checked his load. It was not an ideal place to stop and he was obviously concerned about the vehicles streaming by just feet away.

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind motorists to stay alert when there are trucks on the side of the road and in parking lots. Please watch out for the drivers and give them plenty of room.

Drivers, wear high-visibility clothing when outside your rig. We appreciate you and want to keep you safe!

More information from

Working in the dark

By Jena Williams


Truckers put in long hours all year, but the shortening of days mixed with fog or rain make working outside treacherous.

Always wear high-visibility clothing or vests when working outside your truck.

Employers, consider providing headlamps to your workers so they can keep their hands free. Headlamps are double-duty in allowing workers to see and be seen.

Here are a few of my favorite safety materials on this topic from

Camo is not part of this job description:

Working in the dark:

This is what motorists see:

Find more at

I bet you’ve got stories of close calls or lessons learned. Share them in the comments.

Prepare now

By Jena Williams

With the sunshine we’ve seen this week, it’s hard to imagine that winter will be here soon. However, now, while it’s dry, is the perfect time to get ready for it. Inspect your chains and double check your emergency supplies.

Use these safety publications from to get started:

Emergency supplies for truck drivers

A truck driver’s winter survival kit:

Tire Chaining

Are you the tire chain master? Test your skills with this interactive tire-chaining simulation:

As always, free safety training materials are available at

It’s time to check your chains

By Jena Williams

Fall is here and winter weather is on its way. Prepare by inspecting your chains for wear and damage. Lay each one out for inspection, and then practice chaining the tires. Make sure you have practiced chaining all the trucks you may drive. You do not want to learn the tricks or read the instructions while sitting on the side of a busy road during a winter storm.

Take a moment to review the Washington Department of Transportation’s Minimum Chaining Requirements:

This is also a good time to make sure your cab is stocked with essentials in case you are stuck for a few days. Consider non-perishable food like protein bars. Do you carry extra medication in your cab? How about warm clothes? Extra water?

Once upon a time, we had the phone numbers of our nearest and dearest committed to memory. Not too long ago, I locked my keys AND my cell phone in my car. Even though a good Samaritan was there to offer me her cell phone, I had trouble coming up with phone numbers to call. Good grief! I really can’t survive without that phone, my brain is in there.

Today is the perfect time to memorize the numbers of those closest to you. Also, write them down in a couple of places where you can find them if your phone is lost, stolen or simply locked in your vehicle.

Here are links to safety training materials for cold and icy weather:

A truck driver’s winter survival kit:

More severe weather training:

Is there anything else you do to prep yourself or your rig for the winter elements? Please share your ideas with us in the comments below.

Stay safe this winter!

Do you see what I see?

By Jena Williams

White out caused by big rigThe white out caused by a passing big rig can temporarily blind a motorist or an entire line of motorists. You and the families on the road with you are more important than your cargo. Click this link for snowy driving tips.

What are your stories from the road related to winter driving? Do you have safety tips to share with other drivers? What do other motorists need to know about winter driving around big rigs?