US Rider Urges Drivers to Use Caution at Railroad Crossing
To enhance the safety of horses and those who travel with horses, USRider has worked with Drs. Tomas and Rebecca Gimenez, experts in large-animal emergency rescue, on a research project to gather and analyze data about horse trailer accidents. Conclusions and recommendations from this study will be released to the public soon. However, during the course of the study, USRider and Drs. Gimenez noticed a hazardous trend involving gooseneck horse trailers of which they want to caution the public immediately. While studying more than 200 incidents involving horse trailers, the researchers noticed an inordinate number of incidents involving gooseneck horse trailers becoming stuck on railroad crossings. Almost all of these incidents resulted in the loss of human and equine life. "Being stuck on a railroad track is preventable and does not have to end in tragedy," said Mark Cole, managing member of USRider. "As the driver of a vehicle pulling a trailer, assume that any low-clearance caution signs before the railroad track are meant for you," added Dr. Tomas Gimenez, professor of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Clemson University. "The placement of such warning signs will allow you to take an alternate safer route." If you must cross railroad tracks, proceed cautiously, especially when the tracks are higher than the road grade. If your horse trailer becomes lodged on a railroad crossing, call 911 immediately since emergency agencies can contact railroad companies and alert them of the situation. Additionally, all humans and animals should be evacuated from the tow vehicle and trailer. Evacuating the horses from the trailer serves two purposes. Obviously, it removes them from harm''s way. "Unloading a horse in a potentially dangerous scenario such as this is going to make people as well as the horses nervous. Make sure your horses are good about loading and unloading from the trailer –– this is not the time to be trying to train them," said Dr. Rebecca Gimenez. "Also be sure to lead the horses a good distance away from the tracks to lessen the chance of them becoming spooked by other people, traffic, the tow truck or a passing train." In addition, evacuating the horses will reduce the weight in the trailer, which could raise the trailer enough to dislodge it from the tracks and enable it to complete the crossing safely. "From a practical standpoint, most railroad crossings are built up, making them slightly higher than the surrounding roadway. Therein lies the problem,"said Cole. "When the truck tires pass over the railroad bed and start approaching the lower roadway grade, the rear tires can also be on the roadway grade on the other side of the tracks, causing the front of the gooseneck trailer to bottom out on the tracks." While bumper-pull trailers are not as susceptible to this problem, it is very important to raise the jack stand to a level that will provide sufficient clearance and not bottom out in extreme situations. For more equine trailer safety information, please visit the USRider website at www.usrider.org.