McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 8, 2014

Crossings enforcement: Citations await drivers who fail to stop at rail signals

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Garfield County Sheriff’s Office is stepping up enforcement at railroad crossings throughout the county.

Sheriff Jerry Niles said deputies are working to decrease the number of complaints of tanker trucks and other motorists failing to stop for signals, failing to stop at crossings and trespassing on railway property.

“This year, we started seeing an increase in fuel tanker trucks failing to stop at railroad crossings,” Niles said. “We’ve issued six citations since the first of the year.”

He said most of the citations are for failure to stop at railroad crossing as required, and carry about a $281 fine.

He said tankers carrying combustible materials, or other specified hazardous materials, must stop at all crossings, just like school buses.

“Motorists need to be aware of stopped trucks and buses, which are required to stop at all crossings, and maintain a safe stopping or lane-changing distance,” Niles said. “That’s another thing we’re going to be looking at, is failure to devote full time and attention.”

Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety education group, offers these safety tips for motorists and pedestrians.

• Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.

• All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks. It’s illegal trespass and highly dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks, it’s too late. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile — the length of 18 football fields — to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

• The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds, or 200 tons, and some can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car.

• Trains have the right of way 100 percent of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.

• A train can extend 3 feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the 3-foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties, always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.

• Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light-rail passenger service.

• Today’s trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale “clackety-clack.” Any approaching train always is closer and moving faster than you think.

• Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.

• Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train.