Statistics show that about 50 percent of all railroad crossing accidents (about 3,000 per year) happen where there are no active warnings (no electronic lights or gates). I have heard gripes for a number of years from engineers and conductors who continue to question the railroad’s use of video cameras in road engines.
While railroad management claims the video cameras are mainly to protect the company and engineers if there is a railroad crossing accident, our law firm has learned of various cases where the railroads use the video cameras, or the audio, as a disciplinary tool against a worker.
The cameras have been used to corroborate a disciplinary or rule violation against an engineer or conductor in case of a collision or accident. This is one reason that Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) along with many other engineers had grave concerns over the installation of these cameras in engines and locomotive cabs.
Yes, NS and other railroads are using the video cameras to show that the motorist is at fault in obvious crossing crashes, like where the driver goes around gates. This evidence can help the engineer and conductor in such cases.
I propose, instead of adding more locomotive cameras and video recorders, the rail companies and unions consider electronically lighted or gated railroad crossings, called "active warnings,” which many consider the gold standard for preventing railroad crossing accidents and deaths.
In the near future, positive train control and GPS technology should link any train approach with any dangerous crossing (this becomes mandatory in 2015) so at the minimum, active warning lights will illuminate at any crossing well in advance of the approach of the locomotive engine and the train.
Lighted crossings offer a real and active warning to a motorist, unlike a static stop sign or cross buck. When a motorist ignores a properly lighting active warning light, the motorist usually has no excuse for causing a collision at a railroad crossing.