Contrary to popular belief, it is not always driver inattention that causes car-train accidents. While inattention may lead to some accidents, there are several other factors that may go into train crossing collisions. One of the most surprising causes of car-train accidents may be human perception. Even if we as drivers are paying close attention to our surroundings, the way in which we perceive them may actually have a lot to do with the risk we face when driving.
Most car-train accidents happen at train crossings when cars are unable to make it safely past the tracks. Although some may believe these accidents are simply a result of driver recklessness, it may actually have more to do with how large objects, such as a train are perceived to move slower than smaller objects. It is common for human perception to judge large moving objects as going slower than smaller ones.
Trains are extremely large moving objects and drivers may tend to underestimate their speed. This underestimation of speed is further compounded by a drivers object familiarity. We as drivers base our judgments of an object’s speed by speeds of other objects we are more familiar with. This means that a driver may underestimate a train’s speed by comparing it to what we perceive the speed of a car to be. By combining these dangerous underestimations, drivers put themselves at risk when attempting to safely pass train crossings. While we may think we are in the clear, our underestimation and the perception of a train’s speed may actually mean we are right in line for a collision.
Car-train collisions cost lives each year. Not only are drivers and passengers likely killed in these collisions, but train operators and train passengers may also be injured. Individuals that have suffered injury or loss in a car-train collision may benefit by working with an experienced personal injury attorney.