Navigating railroad crossings is an essential part of safe driving, and New Jersey has specific laws in place to ensure the public’s safety. The statute 39:4-128 outlines the responsibilities of drivers when approaching and crossing a railroad grade. These regulations are critical to preventing devastating accidents between vehicles and trains. This piece will dive into the details of this law, making it easier for you to understand what you’re required to do at these crucial intersections.
Who Must Stop At Railroad Crossings?
According to Section 39:4-128 (a), specific types of vehicles are required to stop at railroad crossings. These include:
- Omnibuses designed to carry more than six passengers
- School buses carrying school children
- Vehicles carrying flammable liquids or explosive substances as cargo
- Commercial motor vehicles
How To Stop And Proceed
Drivers operating these motor vehicles must come to a stop within fifty feet but not less than fifteen feet from the closest rail. While in a stopped position, the driver is required to listen and also look in both directions along the track for any approaching train or equipment. They should also check for signals that indicate the approach of a train.
When it’s safe to proceed, the driver should only cross the railroad in a gear that eliminates the need for gear changes while crossing. In other words, don’t shift gears while going over the railroad tracks.
Exceptions To The Rule
There are exceptions to these requirements:
- If the grade crossing is no longer used for railroad traffic and has been abandoned by the railroad company. Appropriate signs must be posted for the crossing to be considered abandoned.
- If the railroad track has been removed or paved over, and warning signs have been removed. In this case, written notice should be given to the Commissioner of Transportation and local authorities.
- Grade crossings marked with a sign reading “Exempt Crossing” are also exceptions to this rule.
Penalties For Violation
Violation of this statute results in specific penalties. For the first offense, a fine of not more than $50 may be imposed. A second offense can result in a fine of up to $100, or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both. The offense also results in two points on your driver’s license.
Special Requirements For Certain Vehicles
Subsection (b) of 39:4-128 outlines additional requirements for particular vehicles like crawler-type tractors, wheel tractors, and self-propelled concrete mixers, among others. These vehicles must alert the closest trainmaster or superintendent of the railroad before crossing and must stop 15 to 50 feet from the nearest rail to ensure it’s safe to cross.
Defenses To Alleged Offenses Under 39:4-128
Challenging The Vehicle Classification
One potential defense to a charge under statute 39:4-128 could focus on the type of vehicle involved. According to the law, specific classes of vehicles such as omnibuses carrying more than six passengers, school buses, and vehicles carrying hazardous materials are mandated to stop at railroad crossings. If you were driving a vehicle that does not fall into one of these categories, you could argue that the statute does not apply to your situation.
Questioning The Designation Of The Crossing
The statute allows for certain railroad crossings to be designated as “Exempt Crossings” by the Commissioner of Transportation. If the crossing where the alleged offense took place is an exempt crossing, marked by an “Exempt Crossing” sign, this could serve as a defense. Similarly, if the crossing has been abandoned or the railroad track has been removed or paved over, the requirements to stop don’t apply, given that appropriate signs have been posted or written notice has been given to the Commissioner of Transportation and local authorities.
Compliance With Stop And Proceed Guidelines
The statute is explicit about how a vehicle should stop and proceed at a railroad crossing. It mandates stopping within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail. If you have complied with these guidelines and taken the precautions listed in the statute—such as listening and looking in both directions for an approaching train—you could use this as part of your defense.
Vehicles Complied With Special Conditions
For specific types of vehicles, like crawler-type tractors and self-propelled concrete mixers, the statute has additional requirements. These include notifying the nearest superintendent or trainmaster of the intended crossing and making arrangements for safe crossing. If you’ve adhered to these conditions, that could also be part of your defense strategy.
What Types Of Vehicles Are Required To Stop At Railroad Crossings Under 39:4-128?
The law mandates that certain vehicles must stop at railroad crossings. These include omnibuses designed for carrying more than six passengers, school buses carrying any school children, vehicles carrying flammable liquids or explosive substances, and specific commercial motor vehicles.
Are There Any Exemptions For Certain Railroad Crossings?
Yes, the statute allows for “Exempt Crossings,” designated by the Commissioner of Transportation. If a crossing is marked with a sign reading “Exempt Crossing,” the law’s requirements for stopping do not apply.
What Are The Penalties For Violating 39:4-128?
The penalties are financial and can include imprisonment. For a first offense, the fine is up to $50. For a second offense, the fine can go up to $100 or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both.
How Close Must I Stop To The Railroad Tracks?
According to the law, you must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad. While stopped, you must also listen and look in both directions for any approaching train or signals that indicate a train is approaching.
Improper Crossing Of Railroad Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with improper crossing of a railroad grade crossing under 39:4-128, you need experienced legal representation to navigate New Jersey’s complex traffic laws. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are here to help. With offices throughout New Jersey, our professional team is ready to assist you. Call us today at (855) 933-3761 or contact us online to discuss your case and learn how we can help you.
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