On average, around 500 people are killed each year in rail crossing collisions. More than half of the deaths occur at so-called passive crossings -- those with no warning lights or gates.
Just last week, a family of five was killed when their minivan was crushed by a freight train at a passive crossing in rural Tennessee.
"They used this crossing every day." said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall. "They knew the crossing was there. What they did not know was that the train was coming."
The Tennessee accident provided a grim backdrop for an NTSB hearing Tuesday on how to reduce the risk at unguarded crossings.
The most immediate and affordable answer, according to the Safety Board, are stop signs and an old safety message.
"When I grew up it was stop, look and listen, when did it get changed?" said Hall.
The NTSB called for $200 million in federal financing to pay for stop signs at thousands of the nation's unguarded crossings.
The safety board also encouraged the fast tracking of hi-tech solutions, like a modified radar detector being developed by Cobra Electronics.
However, even hi-tech solutions won't eliminate the risk. Locomotive Engineer Carroll Turner, who was hauling freight through Virginia Tuesday, says the real problem is the daredevil driver.
"They got to be crazy, there's no way we can stop these things on a dime," said Turner.
Just minutes later, drivers were again crossing in front of his train.
Reported by Bob Orr
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