Drivers fail rail crossing test in Arlington Hts.

 

Written by Marni Pyke

 

You'd think after years of watching pedestrians and drivers ignore warning gates and bells at railroad crossings, Michael Meyer would be a little jaded.

Yet the Union Pacific Railroad public safety officer remains optimistic that one bright, shining day he'll encounter a scofflaw-free zone.

"Our goal is to find no one," said Meyer, who recently spent the day at the Arlington Heights Metra station looking for gate crushers. Forty-two police officers joined the enforcement effort at train stations along the UP line from Park Ridge to Woodstock.

How law-abiding were we?

Not so great, it turns out. Police handed out 82 citations and 27 warnings for a smorgasbord of violations.

"It's a challenging number, and that's why we're out there," Meyer said.

Violations ranged from cars parking on the tracks, people driving around the lowered gates, and pedestrians blithely ignoring all warning devices.

"There's numerous excuses," Meyer said.

What the public doesn't realize is that on the UP lines, there are about 70 to 80 trains a day, some traveling at speeds of up to 70 mph.

"People don't understand that trains can go both ways and one train can hide a second train," Meyer emphasized.

If that doesn't convince rail-crossing mavericks out there, how about a few statistics?

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 65 percent of all crashes in Illinois occur when flashing lights or gates have been activated. The state had 28 fatalities at grade crossings in 2007.

the UP conducts its surveillance exercise twice a year and officials like to combine a carrot with the stick.

"We'll reward people for doing things properly," Meyer said.

 

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