By Mike Dougherty and Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Following a horrific accident last night in suburban New York City in which an SUV was hit by a commuter train, killing seven people, SEPTA officials today were reminding drivers and pedestrians that it’s never OK to stop on the tracks.READ MORE: Triple Shooting At Penn's Landing Leaves 3 Teenagers Injured: Philadelphia Police
At busy railroad crossings, such as the one on Oxford Avenue in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia (photo), traffic can build up and, at times, come to a halt.
In those circumstances, says SEPTA’s chief safety officer, Scott Sauer, it’s important to keep the tracks clear.
He cautioned drivers not to stop on the tracks if traffic slows ahead of them, saying they have about two seconds after they hear warning bells before the gates start to drop. He also warned motorists to stop at the white lines when approaching grade crossings — not any nearer to the tracks, since trains are wider than the rails and could impact a vehicle
“We ask that you leave that space — leave enough space so that the train can pass without you having to move,” he tells KYW Newsradio.READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: Heat Advisory In Effect Until Sunday Evening As Temperatures Hit Record Highs
He says if the safety barricades come down and you’re stuck between them, drive straight through.
“If you’re already committed to driving over the crossing and the train is on approach, keep going,” he advises.
He says your vehicle will have no problem plowing through the gates because they’re designed to break away.
And if your car is disabled on the tracks, Sauer says to exit the vehicle immediately, walk to a safe location, and call 911.
Finally, Sauer reminded drivers that driving around crossing gates or ignoring warning signals isn’t just dangerous, but illegal, and if you are spotted, you could receive a citation from police.MORE NEWS: Betts Falls Triple Shy Of Cycle, Leads Dodgers Past Phillies
SEPTA records show there have only been three train-vehicle collisions at SEPTA’s 87 grade crossings since April 2012, and none of them were fatal.