Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Police Ramp Up Rail-Crossing Citations after Recent Crashes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Police Ramp Up Rail-Crossing Citations after Recent Crashes

Article excerpt

VALHALLA, N.Y. * A series of crashes involving trains and passenger vehicles including recent deadly collisions in New York and California have prompted police to ramp up ticket enforcement at railroad crossings.

The Federal Railroad Administration has called for police departments nationwide to add patrols and issue more citations as the first step in a safety campaign, and drivers in the New York suburbs are already seeing the results.

Police from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are issuing six times as many summonses as they did last year to drivers who go around gates, stop on the tracks or drive distracted at grade crossings on the Metro-North and Long Island commuter railroads, spokesman Aaron Donovan said. Officers wrote 249 tickets between Jan. 1 and March 22, compared with 41 in a similar period last year.

"Ninety-four percent of grade-crossing accidents are linked to a driver's behavior," said Sarah Feinberg, the Railroad Administration's acting administrator.

On Feb. 3, a Metro-North train slammed into an SUV on the tracks in suburban Valhalla, N.Y., killing the SUV driver and five train passengers. Since then, a Metrolink commuter train struck a pickup in Oxnard, Calif., fatally injuring the engineer, and an Amtrak train slammed into a tractor-trailer in Halifax, N.C., injuring 55 people. On Saturday, a light rail train in Los Angeles struck a car that turned in front of it outside the University of Southern California, seriously injuring the driver and train operator and leaving 19 passengers hurt.

At least two other train-car collisions resulted in injuries in the New York suburbs in the past month, but that's not unusual. The Railroad Administration noted more than 10,000 crashes at railroad crossings in the past five years, causing 1,211 deaths and 4,644 injuries.

"This is where people are getting killed; this is where the danger is," said U. …

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