Tonight - driving to the "historic" section of downtown - I turned off the main road onto a side street that goes through the middle of downtown. I noted that I was the only car on the street - (not unusual - this is a small town) and also noted that the lights of the train crossing up ahead had just started to flash. Being that I was going to be the first (and maybe only) car to arrive at the crossing gate, I slowed down, and checked my mirrors automatically, wanting to see what else was around before I stopped, and also have a place to turn around and leave if necessary. (I started this many years ago after an enlightening discussion with a local cop who had dealt with numerous train crossing attacks - mostly on women! (but there were a good share of muggings/car jackings etc. on men as well) Add to that that this particular street is about one block from a nasty (read lots of crime and drugs) section of town. Now, given the kind of car that I drive, I knew I wasn't a target for carjacking (unless they were in desperate need of duct tape!) - but who knows what the hell else some predator might be after. Given the season, there are more than the regular share of maniacs roaming around - (don't believe me? Check the mall!
) Like I said - the practice of going on guard at a RR crossing has become automatic - and tonight it may have paid off. On the second check of the rearview mirror a car appeared behind me - slowly, lights out. (This is at 9 o'clock at night.) I was just stopping, moved a bit farther to the right (to have a wider turning circle) put the car back into gear, and reached over to lock the doors on the other side of the car. (No automatic locks - it's a real jalopy!) Then I positioned the car to make a u-turn if necessary - interesting thing is that the car that was approaching then did a u-turn itself and slipped down another side street - still with it's lights off until it was turning the corner.
So, were they just lost? Maybe. We're used to stupid tourists getting lost around here all the time (not to mention our winter-time Canadian friends!) but generally - the tourists and the Canadians drive nicer rental cars - and they usually aren't that stupid that they drive around on back streets with their lights off.
Who knows. Like de Becker says in his book - there is no way of keeping statistics on situations that have been avoided. But I can say for sure that I am glad that I do not relax my guard - in fact I heighten my awareness - whenever approaching a railroad crossing. Male or female - everyone should take these precautions at a train stop:
1) Don't block your-self in - leave room to turn around if possible.
2) Remember that your car can be a weapon!
3) Keep doors locked!
4) Check mirrors constantly!
5) Stay aware! Don't chat on the phone, read the paper or daydream - keep your eyes open and survey the area.