Trains, planes, and automobiles - not just a great movie, but something that every driver must be aware of while traveling in California. Railroad crossings are scattered throughout the State of California and it is important that you know how these crossings operate and what is expected of you as a driver when interacting with these intersections.
When cars were introduced onto the scene and became the predominant form of transportations, railways took a backseat. However, railroads have been used throughout California and across the US for decades to help facilitate commerce, both within and between states. These systems have stood the test of time and have reinforced their worth to society year after year. Needless to say, the railroads are here to stay. Having railroads in each major city created some unique logistical challenges to ensure everyone is safe and commerce flows without significant resistance. To help ensure safety the Department of Transportation (DOT) has set up crossings at each intersection where a road and a track intertwine.
However, motorists must do their part as well by obeying all California vehicle laws related to rails, trains, and railroad crossings.
Stopping at Railroad Crossings (CVC § 22450 – § 22456)
One of the most difficult aspects of navigating on the roadway is understanding how to safely interact with vehicles that coexist on the roadway for different purposes than yours and that differ dramatically in size. Trains and big-rig trucks are great examples of this - neither vehicle has the ability to quickly stop or change paths in the event of a hazard the way a car can, but trains are much more limited than trucks in this regard. That is why it is of elevated importance that both cars and trucks exercise additional caution when approaching railroad crossings.
Pursuant to California Vehicle Code § 22451, drivers or pedestrians must stop at least 15 feet away from the nearest rail when approaching a railroad if a signaling device or flagman gives a warning or the person can see an approaching train or other on-track equipment. Drivers and passengers are prohibited from attempting to circumvent crossing gates or other warning devices when they are engaged.
However, CVC § 22452 provides special provision for all school buses and certain commercial vehicles as they approach a railroad. Buses and certain commercial vehicles listed within the code section must stop at least 15 to 50 feet from the nearest rail of the track. While the vehicle is stopped, the driver must listen carefully and look both ways to ensure a train is not approaching and there are no signals to indicate a train may be approaching. Only after carefully listening and looking both ways may the driver proceed across the railroad tracks.
There are extremely limited exceptions for requiring bus drivers and some commercial truck drivers to “stop, look, and listen” for a train. If in doubt, it is wise to err on the side of caution and always “stop, look, and listen” before crossing any railroad tracks.
The fine for failing to stop at a railroad under CVC § 22452 is $490 and one point against your license.
If you were cited for failing to stop at a railroad crossing, reach out to our team to find out how we can assist. We offer a free ticket review.