An officer issues a warning to a motorist as part of a 2014 Illinois Rail Safety Week crossing enforcement activity.
If you were driving or walking around railroad crossings during last fall’s Illinois Rail Safety Week, or attending a soccer game or concert last summer at Columbus, Ohio’s Mapfre Stadium, you might have been one of the thousands of people who received a warning or citation for disobeying rail crossing warning signals or trespassing on railroad property. These rail safety law enforcement blitzes were carried out by a coordinated coalition of local police agencies and railroad police to stop unsafe behavior in its tracks.
Effective enforcement of state highway safety laws at railroad crossings and of anti-trespassing laws is a crucial component of the “three E’s” of rail safety: Education, Engineering, and Enforcement. With preliminary 2014 statistics showing an increase of more than eight percent in crossing collisions and nearly 10 percent for trespass casualties, state and federal officials are taking a closer look at the role enforcement plays in communities.
Every state Operation Lifesaver (OL) program partners with state and local law enforcement agencies and railroad police to promote effective enforcement and safety awareness at railroad crossings. Many police departments actively participate in their state OL as board members and safety partners. Nearly 15 percent of Operation Lifesaver’s authorized volunteers are law enforcement officers.
Another important OL law enforcement initiative is our Grade Crossing Collision Investigation (GCCI) course offered to law enforcement officers by their law enforcement peers. Over the last three years, 589 GCCI classes have been held throughout the U.S., educating 10,400 police officers about the need for active and aggressive enforcement of their respective state laws regarding rail crossings and railroad property.
In the wake of recent major rail crossing collisions in New York and California, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has rolled out a new, multi-faceted campaign aimed at strengthening enforcement and safety awareness at grade crossings. Under the direction of Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg, the effort began with a charge to local law enforcement agencies to show a greater presence at grade crossings, issue citations to drivers who violate rules of the road at crossings and consider rapid implementation of best practices for grade crossing safety.
OLI applauds and strongly supports FRA's initiative. We stand ready to support and partner with law enforcement agencies to aggressively enforce rail crossing and anti-trespassing laws and regulations.
While no one enjoys getting a citation from a police officer, the ticket you receive for disobeying crossing warning signals or trespassing on railroad property could save your life!