Top 10 DMV Questions – Railroad Crossings

Railroad Crossing - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

How to Pass the Written Driver’s Test?

You are not alone. Every visitor at this site probably have questions like: How to pass the written driver’s test? What questions are on the permit test?

Luckily, we are here to help.

First, Get the Manual

Remember to get the driver’s manual from your state office or download it online. Study it carefully. The driver manual defines what you are expected to know.

Questions on your test are drawn from across all sections of the manual. Any subject found in the manual can appear on the test.

The purpose of the written knowledge test is to provide a reliable estimate of what you know about the subjects that make up the manual, and ultimately to determine if you have the sufficient knowledge to drive safely.

Even if any information in the manual may appear on the tests, some areas are more important than others. Some permit test questions are also more likely to appear than others.

In Top 10 Questions we try to help you identify some areas to focus on. You should, however, not take this as an excuse to skip the practice tests or skip reading the manual.

Safe driving at railroad crossings is one important area.

Why Safe Driving Practices at Railroad Crossings Matters

Let’s start with some background information, or why safe driving practices at railroad crossings matters:

If you are involved in a train/motor vehicle collision, you are 40 times more likely to die than in a collision with two motor vehicles.

Every second hour a train hits someone in America, often with fatal results.

What You Should Know about Railroad Crossings

Common Questions
  • When are you allowed to drive around a lowered gate?
  • What should you do if there is not enough room on the other side of the crossing?
  • Why should you not shift gears while driving over the tracks?
  • If you must stop, what distance must you keep from the tracks
  • Why must you be prepared to stop if you see a school bus ahead?
What You Must Remember
  • Driving around a lowered gate is dangerous and illegal.
  • Stop before the crossing if there is not enough room on the other side.
  • To avoid stalling, never shift gears on the railroad crossing, downshift before you reach it.
  • If you must stop, keep a distance of 15 to 50 feet from the tracks.
  • Some vehicles, like school buses or trucks carrying hazardous materials, must stop at crossings.
  • You must ALWAYS yield the right-of-way to trains.

Stall on railroad tracks - Railroad Crossing - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

What You Should do if Your Vehicle Stalls on Tracks

Finally, the one question that always causes confusion: In what direction should you run if your car stalls on a railroad crossing?

At least one user per day reports the correct answer as an error.

If you run in the same direction as the train, you may be injured by flying debris when the train hits the car. It is essential that you run away from the tracks and towards the train. That way you will be behind the point of impact.

This question rarely shows up on a real test, but the knowledge may be a life-safer one day.

6 Comments on Top 10 DMV Questions – Railroad Crossings

  1. Thomas J. Capozzi // May 13, 2020 at 7:56 am // Reply

    Are there any exceptions to not stopping at a Railroad Track when you are Merging from the right lane while driving a transit bus? The merging lane is clearly marked for a railroad crossing. Ex: Going East on University Blvd then bearing right onto 301 Blvd and there is a set of Railroad Tracks with markings.

    • Sorry, but I don’t understand the question. Have no idea where you are and why you assume there is a no-stopping rule in place.

      If it is a railroad crossing, transit buses are generally required to stop at all crossings.

  2. Question: A train had just gone through town. the barriers went up an the lights were flashing. While the lights continued to flash, a car proceeded across the tracks – with no train insite, the barriers started coming down as the driver was in the center of both tracks. they accelerated through safely…but if there are double tracks with multiple trains back to back, shouldn’t they just keep the barriers down? It wasn’t even a minute or two between trains.

    • Andee – sorry for the late reply. Your comment was simply lost during our holidays!

      A driver should remain stopped as long as the red lights are flashing, even if the gate arm is up.

      The minimum operation time of signals and gates are 20 seconds before the arrival of any train. This time is affected by things like the width of the crossing, location, normal traffic, speed of trains, etc. But 20-25 seconds is very common.

      Vehicles are first stopped by the flashing red lights. The gate arm moves down AFTER red lights starts flashing and moves up BEFORE red lights stops flashing. Both are a signal that a driver must stop and remain stopped.

      If there was more than a minute between trains, I think the sequence you describe is very common.

  3. Michael Collins // February 27, 2014 at 8:49 am // Reply

    What do you do if driving a school bus over the railroad tracks, and the barrier starts to come down

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