LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -Authorities are cracking down on those who ignore railroad signals.
Officers boarded the train to experience approaching a railroad crossing from a locomotive engineer’s perspective, according to police.
Tuesday morning in Lake Charles, Louisiana State Police Troop D, Lake Charles Police Department, and the Union Pacific Police joined forces to issue more than 80 citations to drivers who failed to stop for oncoming trains.
“You have so many people that play chicken with you...I’ve seen it so much, it’s unbelievable,” said Kirk Yellott, Union Pacific Locomotive Engineer.
Yellott has been operating trains for more than 40 years. On any given day he witnesses a handful of drivers failing to stop at railroad crossings.
“When I’m on a train going 50 miles an hour, I’m guessing what they’re going to do,” said Yellott.
Tuesday’s enforcement detail resulted in a total of 83 traffic citations being issued including 71 for failure to obey a signal indicating the approach of a train, 2 for driving under suspension, 3 for no driver’s license, 3 seat belt violations, 1 for an expired motor vehicle inspection, 1 for no vehicle insurance, and 2 for an expired license plate. Additionally, one misdemeanor summons was issued for trespassing.
“The last time we did a detail here on Highway 14 in Lake Charles, we wrote about 30 citations within the first hour,” said Sergeant Scott Dougherty, Lake Charles Police.
In 2019, 37 people were injured and 7 people killed in collisions at railroad crossings in Louisiana, according to Operation Lifesaver, which ranks the Bayou State as 7th in the nation for railroad collision fatalities.
“It takes 30 seconds to stop for the train and they’ll have the rest of their life to live,” said Yellott.
With nearly a half of century of work under his belt, Yellott said it’s shocking how little regard some people have for their safety.
“It’s unbelievable how in the middle of the night, somebody will get in the middle of the track and turn their lights off, I’m just telling you what I see.”
Yellott said he’s hopeful that by putting an officer on the train, it helps bring attention to the risks--and gives drivers something to think about the next time they find themselves crossing the tracks.
Louisiana state law requires motorists to obey signals at railroad crossings that indicate a train is approaching including flashing red lights and/or lowered gates. Failure to obey these signals may result in a fine of up to $200.00 and up to 30 days in jail for a first offense with higher fines and increased jail time possible for additional violations.
The fine for racing a train is up to $1,000. More information concerning rail safety may be found online by visiting the Operation Lifesaver website, www.oli.org.