Train Warning Horns
The sounding of locomotive horns or whistles as trains approach highway-rail grade crossings has been used as a safety precaution by railroads since the late 1800's. "Whistle bans" have been established in some locations by local ordinance or through agreements with particular railroads. Unfortunately, the silencing of locomotive horns greatly increases the safety hazard to vehicles at grade crossings.
In 1994, Congress passed legislation that required FRA to issue regulations mandating the use of train horns at public grade crossings, with several exceptions. One exception allows communities to implement "supplementary safety measures" at grade crossings to compensate for train horn or whistle blowing.
The term "supplementary safety measure'' refers to a safety system or procedure, provided by the appropriate traffic control authority or law enforcement authority responsible for safety at the highway-rail grade crossing, that is determined by the Secretary to be an effective substitute for the locomotive horn in the prevention of highway-rail casualties. A traffic control arrangement that prevents careless movement over the crossing (e.g., as where adequate median barriers prevent movement around crossing gates extending over the full width of the lanes in the particular direction of travel), and that conforms to standards prescribed by the Secretary under this subsection, shall be deemed to constitute a supplementary safety measure. The following do not, individually or in combination, constitute supplementary safety measures within the meaning of this subsection: standard traffic control devices or arrangements such as reflectorized crossbucks, stop signs, flashing lights, flashing lights with gates that do not completely block travel over the line of railroad, or traffic signals.