Operation Lifesaver urges you to learn lifelong, lifesaving habits around highway-rail intersections, and to stay away from railroad rights-of-way.

Warning Signs & Devices

Public highway-rail grade crossings are places where the roadway crosses the train tracks. They are highway-rail intersections. State highway departments and railroad companies have marked them, for your safety, with one or more of the following warning devices. Learn what they are and watch for them. These warning devices advise you the road crosses train tracks. They alert you to the possible presence of a train.

Advance Warning Signs

The Advanced Warning sign is usually the first sign you see when approaching a highway-rail intersection. It is located a sufficient distance ahead to allow a driver to stop before reaching the crossing.

The Advance Warning sign advises you to slow down, look and listen for the train, and be prepared to stop if a train is approaching.

Pavement Markings

Pavement Markings, consisting of an R X R followed by a Stop Line closer to the tracks, may be painted on the paved approach to a crossing. Stay behind the Stop Line while waiting for a train to pass.

Crossbuck Signs

Crossbuck signs are found at highway-rail intersections. They are yield signs. You are legally required to yield the right of way to trains. Slow down, look and listen for the train, and stop if a train approaches.

When the road crosses over more than one set of tracks, a sign below the Crossbuck indicates the number of tracks.

Flashing Red Light Signals

At many highway-rail grade crossings, the Crossbuck sign has flashing red lights and bells. When the lights begin to flash, stop! A train is approaching. You are legally required to yield the right of way to the train. If there is more than one track, make sure all tracks are clear before crossing.


Many crossings have gates with flashing red lights and bells. Stop when the lights begin to flash and before the gate lowers across your road lane. Remain stopped until the gates go up and the lights have stopped flashing. Proceed when it is safe.

Driving Special Vehicles


In addition to following all other guidelines in this website, motorcyclists should approach all highway-rail intersections VERY slowly. Be alert to the possibility of a rough crossing.  Always cross the tracks at as nearly a 90 degree angle as possible.

School Buses & Commercial Buses

In most states, school buses and commercial buses are required to stop at every highway-rail grade crossing. The driver must look and listen for trains approaching from either direction, and cross only when it is safe to do so.  Before crossing be sure there is enough space to clear the tracks on the other side if a stop becomes necessary, and never change gears while crossing.

Trucks Carrying Hazardous Materials

Federal regulations and the laws of most states require trucks carrying hazardous materials to stop at all highway-rail grade crossings. Stop gradually to avoid being rear-ended. Never change gears while crossing the tracks.  Wherever possible, use roads where railroad crossings are equipped with flashing red lights or gates.

Safety Tips

Freight trains do not travel on a predictable schedule; schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at every highway-rail intersection.

Do not get trapped on a highway-rail crossing. Never drive onto a railroad crossing until you are sure you can clear the tracks on the other side without stopping.

If the gates are down, the road is closed. Stop and wait until the gates go up and the red lights stop flashing.

When you are at a multiple-track crossing and the last car of the closest train passes by, stay alert. Before crossing, look and listen carefully for another train on another track, coming from either direction.

If your vehicle stalls at the highway-rail intersection, get everyone out and far away from the tracks immediately. Then, call 911 to report the emergency situation.

Racing a train to a highway-rail intersection is a fool's game. If you lose, you may never have a second chance.

Driver Awareness

Watch For Vehicles That Must Stop!

Be prepared to stop when following buses or driving behind trucks with hazardous materials placards. Federal regulations and the laws of most states require them to stop at every highway-rail intersection, unless advised by appropriate signs.

Beware The Optical Illusion

You cannot accurately judge a train's speed or distance. Do not take chances. An optical illusion makes a train seem farther away and moving more slowly than it is. Do not take chances.

Trains Can't Stop Quickly . . . You Can

After fully applying the brakes, a loaded freight train traveling 55 mph takes a mile or more to stop. A light rail train can take 600 feet to stop, and an 8-car passenger train traveling 80 mph requires about a mile to stop.

At night, judging speed and distance is particularly difficult. Be very cautious.

Be Especially Alert At Night

At night, judging speed and distance is particularly difficult. Be very cautious.

More Driving Tips:

  • Never drive around lowered gates --- It's illegal and deadly. If you suspect a warning device is malfunctioning, call your local law enforcement agency.
  • Never race a train to a crossing --- even if its a tie --- You Lose!
  • Do not get trapped on a crossing. Only proceed through a crossing only if you are sure you can cross all the tracks at the crossing.
  • Watch Out for a second train when crossing multiple tracks.
  • Get Out of your vehicle if it stalls on a crossing and call your local law enforcement agency for assistance. Attempt to start your vehicle only if you can post lookouts to warn of approaching trains.
  • Expect a train on the track at any time. Trains do not follow set schedules.
  • Be Aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if a locomotive engineer sees you, it can take up to 1 and 1/2 miles for the train to stop once the emergency brake is applied.
  • Do Not misjudge a train's speed and distance. A train's large mass makes it almost impossible to accurately judge its speed.

Maine Operation Lifesaver, Inc.
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