The uniquely-shaped Crossbuck Sign is found at intersections where railroad tracks pass across a highway or road. Comprised of two intersecting bars that form an X, they are yield signs instructing drivers to stop if a train is approaching from either direction. Failure to adhere to this sign can result in serious injury or death, and it is up to each driver to slow down as they approach railroad tracks, listen carefully, and look for any approaching trains as they come to the tracks. The Crossbuck Sign is similar to the Advance Warning Sign, a round railroad crossing emblem that is usually posted in advance of the tracks. These signs may or may not be accompanied by flashing lights and lowered gates for additional safety.
Trains Have The Right of Way
Trains are always afforded the right of way when railroad tracks intersect with the highway. This is because trains are not equipped to stop on a dime, and they have no option to swerve out of the way if there is a vehicle blocking the tracks. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, more than 2,000 train/passenger vehicle collisions occur every year in the United States, resulting in more than 200 deaths annually. These may sound like grim statistics, but they are a massive improvement from the 1980s. For instance, in 1981, there were 9,461 collisions resulting in 728 fatalities. Improvements in railroad signage – including the Crossbuck Sign – may be responsible for the dramatic decline in accidents.
The Advent of Railroad and Traffic Safety
As the country transitioned from horseback travel to automotive vehicles in the early 1900s, it became quickly clear that the advent of the car led to increased dangers on the roadway. The Crossbuck Sign emerged out of early public campaigns to raise awareness about how dangerous it could be to travel by automobile. There was no putting the genie back in the bottle, however, and Mr. Ford’s Model T proved to be far too attractive to the American populace. Instead of looking to limit personal vehicles, the government and private groups decided instead to focus on things that could be done to mitigate the risks to whatever extent was possible. In many ways, this campaign continues to this very day.
Traffic signs aren’t the only aspect of improved roadways, of course. Everything from traffic lights to speed limits to seat belts has come about due to an interest in improving traffic safety. But signage remains one of the most affordable and effective ways to bring about positive change. If you know of a railroad intersection in your town without a Crossbuck Sign, you may want to invest in one or contact your town’s authorities about installing one at the proper juncture. These signs can save lives and reduce the risk of serious injuries.