General Question

tekn0lust's avatar

Why do cars stall on railroad tracks?

Asked by tekn0lust (1851 points ) November 9th, 2007

Of all the places to stall why railroad tracks?

It seems like every week I hear of a car stalling on a railroad track and either narrowly avoiding disaster or being smashed to atoms.

I wonder if someone could do a study that correlates the physical attributes of railroad crossings with incidents of stalled cars. That would that be a riveting read…

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4 Answers

cwilbur's avatar

If they don’t stall on railroad tracks, there’s no drama or interest in the stalling. I suspect that cars stall equally everywhere, but you only hear about the ones that interested someone because they were on railroad tracks.

tekn0lust's avatar

I thought that too, but thinking about the tiny fraction of driving surface which includes both railroad track and road it seems unlikley. It must have something to do with slowing to approach the tracks or the jarring that a car takes as it goes over some tracks. I know some people have been distracted or confused and turned down the tracks thinking it was a side street only to get hung on the tracks. Just one of those little mysteries I guess.

bob's avatar

Lots of people come to a full stop before railroad tracks, or slow down far enough that first or second gear isn’t enough.

You’re just as likely to stall at any other intersection, except that some people probably get nervous (esp. if they see a train coming) and stall out the car for that reason.

BanfieldVet's avatar

There was a discussion of this on a local radio program the other day, and two people called in and reported that their cars just shut off on a railroad track wiht the train coming and couldn’t be started. There’s a magnetic field created by the oncoming train. I don’t know what kind of idiots keep insisting that doesn’t happen or why they would.

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