The American Association for Justice (AAJ) reports that the Federal Highway Administration has proposed a policy that will require yield or stop signs at every railroad crossing in America. This policy may seem like a good public safety measure, but in reality it is anything but.
Studies show that the indiscriminate placement of stop signs at all rail road crossings would not enhance rail crossing safety. As the AAJ points out in its reponse and opposition to this policy submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, research has shown that collisions are more likely to occur at highway-rail grade crossings that have Stop signs than with any other form of warning. Stop signs should be used only after an engineering analysis has demonstrated that they are appropriate. The use of stop signs as a warning device at a particular railroad crossing may be inappropriate for many reasons. In the case of high speed rail crossings, a train may simply be traveling so fast that a motorist won’t be able to see it approaching when it stops at the stop sign but cannot clear the crossing before the train arrives. In other situations, stop signs may be too far from the track for drivers to get a clear view of it. Currently, State and local highway agencies are vested with the discretion to decide whether to install Stop signs. This policy should not be changed.
As the AAJ points out, “the new requirement would afford immunity for those entities charged with monitoring such crossings where they clearly should not be entitled.” In sum, not only would this policy do nothing to increase public safety, it would prevent individuals injured in rail crossing collisions where the use of a stop sign as the only form of a warning is negligent from holding anyone responsible for their negligence. Such a policy is contrary to the public interest.
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