Ignoring the Signs: Railroad Crossings

May 22, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

For the past six years, Union Pacific Railroad in conjunction with local law enforcement officials has conducted railroad details in Southwest Louisiana to educate drivers on the dangers of disobeying railroad crossing signs.  I rode along on one train today and witnessed dozens of motorists that chose not to slow down when the red lights start flashing.

One by one, these drivers would ignore the signs of an oncoming train.  Trooper Sal Messina with Louisiana State Police Troop D, says, "We've never had a detail where we didn't catch anyone."

Although this railroad detail is not about tallying up the number of citations, it is part of an effort to save lives at railroad crossings.  "We want awareness," says Messina, "we want people to be aware all the time. Driving is an honor system - anytime you come to red lights or red stop signs, you're supposed to stop."

Sounds simple enough, but even with local law enforcement staked out, drivers refused to hit the brakes.  Safety Supervisor Jim Herring with Union Pacific Railroad says, "We receive a lot of complaints from the engineers who work this job daily.  They tell us that people are very careless, very inattentive and just sometimes actually dare them to hit them."

With Calcasieu Parish ranking second in the state for the number of car and train-related crashes, details just like this one are not only encouraged - they're necessary.  "Tons of motorists," says Messina, "don't want to stop.  They want to beat that train and once you get in a crash, you can't beat the train."

As long as motorists try to outrun these trains, there will be officers following their tracks.  Herring says, "As long as we're out here writing tickets on every pass, we're gonna be coming out here on a regular basis."

Just remember next time you see the red flashing lights - look, listen and live, and you'll also avoid a hefty ticket.

According to Louisiana State Police Troop D, a total of 45 citations were written today at the railroad crossings in just a two hour time frame.

For more information on railroad crossing statistics go to www.oli.org or www.laoperationlifesaver.org.