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The five riskiest train crossings in Central Alabama

WBMA


Garrick Little works at a car wash next to a railroad crossing in Bessemer. His brother, Anthony, works there too.

Over the last few years, the Little’s brother and a cousin died after trains collided with their cars in two separate accidents just a few miles apart.

One family. Two train accidents. Two deaths. Police say both victims went around the crossing gates.

“It’s just painful towards all of us,” Garrick Little told ABC 33/40 News. “We’re just hurting. Painful. I still hurt to this day. Still, can’t believe it.”

Little is reminded of those deadly accidents every single day.

“It hurts. It hurts me bad,” said Little. “To see the train pass by here every day.”

The riskiest train crossing in Alabama: 14th Street and Carolina Avenue in Bessemer

Little’s cousin died at the riskiest train crossing in Alabama. It’s right next to where he works. The crossing is at 14th Street and Carolina Avenue in Bessemer.

The Federal Railroad Administration ranked it No. 1 based on the 19,800 cars and 32 trains that go through the crossing each day, as well as the six collisions, one death and four injuries between 2011 and 2015. Drivers went around the gate or stopped on the crossing, according to federal accident reports.

The 2nd riskiest train crossing in Central Alabama: Vanderbilt Road in Birmingham

The second riskiest railroad crossing in our viewing area is near a scrap metal company and a fish market on Vanderbilt Road in Birmingham. ABC 33/40 News Investigates captured video of many cars and trucks ignoring the crossing gate.

Nearly 4,800 cars and 42 trains travel through the crossing each day. There have been four accidents and one injury in recent years.

Scott Bernstein manages Standard Iron and Metal next to the Vanderbilt Road train crossing.

“They don’t get here and stop and look down the track,” said Bernstein. “They just kind of build up speed. I guess some people like living on the edge like that.”

The 3rd riskiest train crossing in Central Alabama: 31st Street SW & Cleburne Avenue in Birmingham

The third riskiest railroad crossing in our area is in Birmingham at 31st Street Southwest and Cleburne Avenue. More than 15,000 cars and 29 trains travel through the crossing every day. There have been three collisions and one injury. Each time, the drivers ran the gate.

Vincent Coleman is a contractor who works nearby. He drives over the train crossing several times a day.

“You’re not going to beat that train,” said Coleman. “You’re not going to beat it. It takes two minutes. Just wait.”

The 4th riskiest train crossing in Central Alabama: The 100 block of 22nd Street N. in Bessemer

The 4th riskiest railroad crossing in our area is near the 100 block of 22nd Street N. in Bessemer. More than 5,600 cars and four trains travel through the crossing daily. There were four accidents there in recent years. Five injuries. In most cases, the drivers never stopped.

The 5th riskiest train crossing in Central Alabama: North Broadway Avenue in Sylacauga

Fifth on the list is North Broadway Avenue in Sylacauga. It’s in the heart of downtown. More than 11,000 cars and six trains travel through the crossing each day. There were three accidents there in recent years, but no injuries. In most cases, the drivers didn’t stop.

You can see the Federal Railroad Administration’s list of all the riskiest train crossings in Alabama here.


Driver error is tied to most train/car collisions

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 94% of train-vehicle collisions are attributed to driver behavior or poor judgment.

Nancy Hudson is executive director of Operation Lifesaver. That’s a non-profit education organization dedicated to reducing collisions between cars and trains.

She says if the gate is up, look both ways before you drive across.

“Most people think the gate’s up, so a train isn’t coming,” said Hudson. “The safest thing is to always expect there to be a train coming.

If the gate is down, stop and wait. Don’t go around it. Otherwise, you’re taking your life in your hands.

It’s also important to remember that freight trains don’t follow set schedules. They can run anytime day or night.

You really have to keep your guard up as you approach and go through a train crossing.

You can learn more ways to stay safe at the Operation Lifesaver website.

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