Making Railways Safer One Town at a Time

April 19, 2006 -- Posted at 5:58 p.m. CST


JONESBORO, AR -- People die every year because they pull out in front of a train.  The fact is, trains don't hit vehicles, vehicles hit trains.


Officers with Union Pacific, the Jonesboro Police Department, and Craighead County Sheriff's Department spent Wednesday morning working as a team to help safe lives at railway crossings.


J.R. Coleman has been driving trains for over 30 years.


“I’ve had too many crossing accidents to count.  Fortunately, only 4 or 5 have resulted in fatalities,” said train conductor J.R. Coleman.


However, deaths don't seem to deter other drivers from trying to beat the train.


“It can happen in some towns at virtually every crossing,” said Coleman.


Officers from Craighead County and Jonesboro have seen what happens when a car and train collide.  They want drivers to realize what they're doing is wrong.


“If they’re breaching these crossings with the lights flashing and the arms down, it’s just a matter of time.  They’re taking their lives in their own hands,” said Lt. Roy Coleman with the Jonesboro Police Department.


“The only thing that cuts down on the rate of traffic accidents are gates, because a motorist has to stop and go around them.  They have to make a conscious effort to go around them,” said J.R. Coleman.


Wednesday morning seven people were cited for crossing the tracks.  One of the citations was written for a woman who had a 6-month-old baby in the car with her.  She told the officer who stopped her that she didn’t want to have to wait on the train.


While there are those who make it through the crossing safely, there are others who aren't as lucky.


“That split second that they realize that they’re going to get hit, it’s a sheer look of terror.  Their eyes get big and they’re almost paralyzed, they can’t move,” said Coleman.


A train has a much harder time stopping than an automobile.


“In an emergency, trying to stop as fast as you can at 60 miles an hour, you’re looking at half a mile.  To the motorist that just got hit, all but the first foot of that is insignificant,” said Coleman.


Officials hope driver education through events like “Operation Lifesaver” can help prevent train versus car incidents from happening.


Officials with Union Pacific do programs like the one held Wednesday all over the state.