Navigating through railroad crossings is a daily occurrence for many drivers, yet it poses specific safety concerns that require vigilance and understanding of the law. In New Jersey, the statute governing how motorists should behave at these crossings is 39:4-127.1. This law outlines under what circumstances a driver must stop and what conditions must be met before proceeding through a railroad crossing. Failure to comply can result in serious consequences, not just for the driver but for public safety at large.
Requirements For Stopping At Railroad Crossings
According to New Jersey Revised Statute 39:4-127.1, when a driver approaches a railroad grade crossing, they must come to a stop within a particular distance from the nearest rail of the railroad. Specifically, the law mandates stopping within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the closest rail. The driver should remain stopped and can only move forward once it is safe to do so.
Specific Scenarios For Compliance
The requirement to stop doesn’t apply universally at every railroad crossing; rather, it kicks in under certain conditions outlined in the statute:
If there is a clearly visible mechanical or electronic signal device that warns of an incoming train or other equipment on-track, stopping is mandatory.
Presence Of Crossing Gates Or Flagmen
A driver must stop if a gate is in the lowered position, or a human flagman is giving signals indicating the passage or approach of on-track equipment or a train.
Audible Signals From An Approaching Train
A vehicle must stop if a train or other on-track equipment that is approximately 1500 feet away emits a signal that is audible from that distance. The law stresses that the train or equipment, due to its speed or proximity, should be an immediate hazard for the requirement to apply.
Visibility Of Approaching Train
Stopping is obligatory if an approaching train or other on-track equipment is clearly visible and dangerously close to the crossing.
Prohibitions At Railroad Crossings
The statute also includes prohibitions to enhance safety at these crossings. According to Section (b) of 39:4-127.1, no one shall operate any vehicle around, through, or under a barrier or crossing gate at a railroad crossing while the barrier or gate is in the process of being opened or closed, or is already closed.
Importance Of Compliance
Understanding and following New Jersey’s law on railroad crossings is crucial. Failing to obey this statute not only puts the driver at risk but also endangers the lives of others. The penalties include an $86 fine and two points on your driver’s license. Therefore, it’s vital for drivers to be familiar with these specific conditions and prohibitions to navigate railroad crossings safely and legally in New Jersey.
Possible Defenses For Violating 39:4-127.1 In New Jersey
Ambiguity Or Lack Of Warning Signals
One possible defense could be that there were no clearly visible electric or mechanical signal devices giving a warning of an incoming train or other on-track equipment. If such signals were absent, malfunctioning, or obscured, the requirement to stop might not apply according to the statute.
Absence Of Crossing Gate Or Flagman
Similarly, if there were no lowered crossing gates or human flagmen providing signals, one could argue that the statute’s conditions for mandatory stopping were not met. It could serve as a defense that the driver had no way to know of the impending hazard.
Questioning The “Immediate Hazard” Criteria
The statute requires that an approaching train must be an “immediate hazard.” If it can be proven that the train or other on-track equipment was not an immediate hazard by reason of its speed or nearness to the crossing, this could be used as a defense. Demonstrating that the train was far enough away or moving at a speed that did not present immediate danger could challenge the violation.
Challenging The Proximity Of The Train
The law states that a train must be within approximately 1500 feet and emit an audible signal for the stopping requirement to kick in. If a driver can show that the train was outside of this distance or that the audible signal was not clear, it could serve as a viable defense.
Addressing Barriers And Gates
If the crossing gate or barrier was malfunctioning and staying closed even when no train was approaching, one could argue that the statute’s prohibition against driving through or around a closed gate does not apply. Similarly, if the gate was in the process of opening and then malfunctioned and started closing again, a driver could potentially use this as a defense.
Frequently Asked Questions About 39:4-127.1
What Distance Should I Maintain From The Rail When I Stop At A Railroad Crossing?
According to the New Jersey Revised Statute 39:4-127.1, you should stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad.
Do I Always Have To Stop At A Railroad Crossing?
No, you are required to stop only under certain conditions specified by the statute. These include the presence of warning signals, lowered crossing gates, human flagmen, an audible signal from an approaching train within approximately 1500 feet, or visible on-track equipment in hazardous proximity to the crossing.
What If There Are No Visible Or Audible Warnings?
If there are no warning signals, crossing gates, or human flagmen, and you can’t hear or see an approaching train, then the law doesn’t require you to stop at the railroad crossing.
Can I Drive Around A Lowered Gate If I Don’t See A Train?
No, the statute states that no one should drive any vehicle through, under, or around any barrier or crossing gate while such gate or barrier is down or is being closed or opened.
What Could Happen If I Violate This Law?
Violating this law could lead to penalties, including fines and potentially points on your driving record. In more serious cases, failure to comply could also result in criminal charges if your actions result in an accident.
Contact The Law Offices Of Jonathan F. Marshall Improper Railroad Crossing Lawyers
If you’ve been charged with violating New Jersey’s 39:4-127.1 statute on improper crossing of a railroad grade, it’s crucial to seek professional legal counsel. The experienced traffic ticket lawyers at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can help you understand your rights and mount a robust defense on your behalf. Don’t leave your case to chance; get the professional help you need. Contact us today at (855) 933-3761 or reach out online to schedule a consultation.
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