Crossing the Tracks - A Close Call

May 16, 2007 - Posted at 4:30 p.m. CST

Jonesboro, AR -  366 motorists were killed in 2006 trying to beat the train and almost 3,000 auto collisions occurred at railroad crossings across America. operation lifesaver is a program where local officers along with railroad police come together to educate people about railroad safety.

"If you try to beat a train you're never gonna win that race because a train is much faster and heavier than a car."

She's right. A regualr freight train weighing around 14,000 tons hitting a car has a force equivilent to a car running over a soda can. But time after time, drivers continue to ignore the warnings at a railroad crossing. Lt. Roy Coleman says not only is it dangerous, it's against the law.

"you know you can't put a price tag, a ticket, on you or family members their life but the train is always going to win and it's not worth three hundred dollars going and getting hit by a train."

Officers rode the rails coordinating with local and railroad police stationed along the tracks to catch violators who thought they could beat the train. It was part of their Life Saver Awareness week and their CARE program.

"CARE,  its an acronym that stands for Crossing Accident Reduction Enforcement. And we do care operations across the entire Union Pacific which is about 23 states in the western U.S. and we do those year round."

But today if you put the pedal to the metal in Region 8... you just might have gotten a citation.

"The vehicle saw the arms go down and they knew the train was coming and they still went between the crossing arms and proceeded on their way."

It would take one mile before a train going 55 miles an hour could stop. craighead county averages about 30 loaded coal trains weighing around 70,000 tons coming through each day at an average speed of 60 miles an hour. It only takes 200 ft. to stop a car moving at that speed.

"They have to get to where they're going and they have to be there five minutes ago. they just don't wait. they just can't wait five minutes for that train to go by."

Craighead County doesn't have a lot of train vehicle collisions, but one particular crossing accounts for 70% of the reported incidents. And that crossing is located on County Rd. 928 near Brookland.

"When we have a crossing that has a high number of accidents, we'll work special enforcement on that crossing."

Officers handed out over 14 citations in less than eight hours, and it's up to the courts how much they'll cost.

Officer Jay Holman with the Union Pacific Police Dept. says those citations aren't cheap for a reason.

"It can be a very expensive ticket, but unfortunately I would rather see someone get a ticket and pay a few dollars out of their pocket than for us or someone to have to go tell their loved ones that they aren't going to be home that evening."

Lt. Coleman says don't even try it.

"Its a no win situation... for the vehicle operator... the train is going to win.