CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It was a very dramatic demonstration designed to make drivers think twice about the idea of "beating the train" at a railroad crossing.
On Wednesday morning in the Montgomery County town of Star, NC Operation Lifesaver, NCDOT BeRailSafe, and the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railway staged a crash involving a moving car and a moving train.
"The train always wins," said AC&W President Jennifer Harvell.
Crash dummies, cameras and data sensors were installed in the car to help officials learn about the impacts from such collisions.
Also, the dummies and child restraint seats were installed inside the car along with cameras to record the effects of proper and improper child seat installations and adult restraints. NCDOT Research and Development officials funded part of the project and hope to share what they learned from the simulation with highway safety partners across the nation.
The car that was used in the demonstration was a 2009 Dodge Charger that was retired from the fleet of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. It was driven by remote control with cables attached to pull it into the path of the train.
This is the first time a moving motor vehicle simulating a motorist's attempt to beat a train to a crossing has been done in North Carolina.
"All the injuries and deaths we see at railroad crossings are preventable if motorists would respect the railroad crossing," said Roger Smock, who coordinates NCDOT's BeRailSafe program and helped organize Wednesday's simulation. "It's our hope, that by showing the impact that occurs when a vehicle attempts to race a locomotive to a crossing, drivers will think twice when approaching railroad tracks. Trains cannot stop quickly, and for this reason they have the right-of-way over all highway traffic, including emergency vehicles."
So far this year, there have been 21 crossing crashes – of those, five were fatal and six caused injuries. In 2017, there were 48 crashes at railroad crossings, resulting in nine fatalities and 17 injuries.