Frequently Asked Questions
Why do trains sound horns?
Train horns are required by federal law to be sounded at all public crossings, 24 hours a day, to warn motorists and pedestrians that a train is approaching.
Train crews may also sound their horns when there is a vehicle, person or animal on or near the track and the crew determines it is appropriate to provide warning. Crews may also sound the horn when there are track or construction workers within 25 feet of a live track, or when gates and lights at the crossing are not functioning properly.
What is the process for getting gates and lights installed at rail crossings?
Most public rail crossings are equipped with passive rail crossing warning signs, such as crossbucks, yield signs, stop signs and pavement markings. Any change from passive warning devices to active warning devices is determined by individual state agencies and road authorities, typically the department of transportation in most states. Each state determines if it is appropriate to equip public rail crossings with active warning devices, such as gates and flashing lights.
As part of this process, each state may use either state or federal safety funds to help pay for the appropriate warning devices based upon the state's priority list of crossings for improvement. Once the location for an appropriate warning device is determined, the state reviews and approves the cost and enters into an agreement with the railroad to install the specified signals.
If you believe a crossing near you is a good candidate for upgrading from a passive warning sign to an active warning, please contact your state department of transportation. The railroads work cooperatively with the states on our network to install active warning devices on the public crossings that the state has determined are most in need of such upgrades.
FRA Reporting Threshold for 2019
The Monetary Threshold for Reporting Rail Equipment Accidents/Incidents for Calendar Year 2019 remains at $10,700.