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During Rail Safety Week, CDOT reflects on deadliest traffic crash in state history

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- During Rail Safety Week, the Colorado Department of Transportation is reminding people to always use caution when approaching rail crossings. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the deadliest traffic crash in Colorado's history.

On December 14, 1961, a school bus full of children collided with a moving train, splitting into two.

According to 9News, the crash happened near the intersection of County Road 53 and County Road 42, outside of Greeley. There were 36 children on board, 20 of them were killed.

In 2020, CDOT reports there were 20 traffic crashes involving trains, resulting in nine injuries and three deaths.

“Safety at railroad grade crossings is a critical issue that we must address through improvements in signals and by reinforcing the need for all travelers to be extremely careful at train tracks,” said Darrell Lingk, Director of the Highway Safety Office at CDOT.

Nationwide, 2,100 people are killed or seriously injured around tracks and trains. According to CDOT, these incidents are often at crossings.

To save lives, safety officials created Rail Safety Week in 2017. Since its inception, officials say Rail Safety Week has saved lives by educating and empowering the public to make safe decisions around trains and tracks. RSW also raises awareness of the need for rail safety education.

CDOT urges motorists to follow these tips at railroad crossings:

  • When approaching a railroad crossing, slow down, look and listen for a train on the tracks, especially at passive crossings where there are no gates or warning signals.
  • Look carefully in both directions before crossing a rail track, even during the day.
  • Do not rely on past experience to guess when a train is coming, trains can travel from either direction at any time.
  • Never race a train.
  • Before entering a railroad crossing, check that there is enough room on either side of the tracks for your vehicle to cross completely and safely.
  • Be aware that you may need to cross multiple sets of tracks at some railroad crossings.
  • Never stop on railroad tracks.
  • Never shift gears on the tracks.

If your vehicle gets stuck on a railroad track, CDOT says to move away from the track and your vehicle at a 45-degree angle to prevent being hit by debris. Call the phone number on the Emergency Notification system sign, or call 9-1-1.

CDOT also wants to remind drivers that by law, trains always have the right away.

For more information on Rail Safety Week, click here. Rail Safety Week runs from Sept. 20 - 26.


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