Is It Illegal to Walk on Train Tracks? (50 State Laws + Fines)

4 years ago I decided to walk from Kansas City, MO to New York City. Normally I’d walk the highways as this was the easiest way to navigate towards town, though one time I did decide to walk along a railroad track. But at the time it felt like it would be okay but here recently I had started to wonder if me walking on railroad tracks was illegal or not.

Yes, it’s illegal to walk on train tracks. Given it’s a big safety concern it is also considered “trespassing” and can result in fines or even jail time. Each state has it’s own laws regarding trespassing but if you decide to walk on train tracks and are caught, you could be looking at a $10,000 fine and/or a maximum of 6 months in jail.

Now, let me answer some other really interesting questions around this topic.

What Can Happen If You’re Caught Walking On Train Tracks

This is a photo of a guy getting arrested

First off, the laws around walking on train tracks vary by state. Some states have specific laws regarding trespassing on railroad property while others may only have general trespassing laws.

It’s important to note that these laws can change at anytime and you should look at your respective states laws to verify that they are the most up-to-date!

Why Is It Dangerous To Walk On Train Tracks

Man with backpack walking in middle of railroad tracks

Now that we’ve gone through each of the states and their laws, why is it dangerous to walk on train tracks.

As I was looking around I found a report on Oli that states that “1,121 pedestrian rail trespass casualties (fatalities + injuries) occurred in 2021. There were 599 trespass-related fatalities and 522 trespass injuries across the U.S. in 2021. Approximately 69% of all 2021 trespass casualties occurred in the 15 states listed below.”

As you can tell, this is the most dangerous reason to not walk on train tracks: getting hit by the darn train.

Here are some reasons why train tracks are dangerous:

  • Loose Gravel: The gravel on the track is loose, causing a person to lose their balance and potentially fall onto the tracks
  • Trains are Quieter Than You Think: Trains are not as loud as one may think. This can lead to people not hearing them approach and getting hit by the train
  • Unexpected Stops or Starts: Trains can stop or start unexpectedly, leading to potential injury or death
  • Trains Can’t Stop Quickly: Despite popular belief, trains cannot stop quickly. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, it can take a train traveling at 55 miles per hour over 1 mile to come to a complete stop.

Every time I think of someone walking on train tracks it takes me back to the movie “Joe Dirt”. While out hunting, his girlfriends father gets his leg stuck in a crossing section, unfortunately since his legged was pinned and he couldn’t get it out and an oncoming train ends up cutting his leg off.

Very unfortunate but reminds me on why you cannot be walking on train tracks.

How to stay safe if you need to cross a train track

this photo is of train tracks with a train on it with a sign saying do not stop on tracks

It would be na├»ve to think that you would never need to cross a train track. Nowadays they are everywhere, this is why it’s important to follow these safety tips when crossing:

  • Look both ways and listen for any oncoming trains
  • Use designated crossings, such as a pedestrian or vehicle crossing
  • If there is not a designated crossing, only cross at a 90 degree angle
  • Do not cross the tracks if there is not enough time to safely make it to the other side

If you don’t feel comfortable crossing a train track, it is always better to find a different route than to risk your safety.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is illegal to walk on train tracks and can result in fines or jail time. But more importantly, it is dangerous and can lead to injury or death. Next time you’re tempted to walk on train tracks, remember the risks and find a safer route. Stay safe out there!