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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Risky Driver Behavior Responsible for 94 Percent of Railroad Crossing Accidents

Louisiana Motorists Targeted By Union Pacific's Public Safety Awareness Efforts

Union Pacific launched its 2009 Louisiana public safety awareness campaign at railroad crossings in Oakdale, Tioga, Ball and Avondale. Drivers who sped up to beat approaching trains were surprised to discover special agents from Union Pacific's police department waiting to issue them tickets for violating motor vehicle laws. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers are required by law to stop when railroad warnings are activated, and nearly 100 percent of all crossing accidents are caused by risky driver behavior.

Union Pacific efforts are part of the company's Crossing Accident and Reduction Enforcement (CARE) program to help improve public safety awareness and decrease vehicle-train crossing collisions in Louisiana. Company agents are focusing on grade crossings where a high number of motorists ignoring railroad warning signals have repeatedly been reported.

"We saw drivers speeding up and going around the crossing gates when the railroad warning signals were activated," said Jim Herring, Union Pacific special agent and public safety officer. "These risks could have tragic consequences, so we ask motorists to follow the law by heeding railroad warnings for their own safety."

By ignoring railroad warnings like crossing signs, bells, lights and gates, drivers often put themselves and their passengers in grave danger. Drivers are required by law to treat crossbuck (X-shaped) railroad crossing signs as yield signs. When warning signals indicate a train is approaching, drivers must stop at least 15 feet from the nearest gate.

Last year, Union Pacific hosted 20 CARE events and has even more planned for 2009. Operations across Louisiana will have local police officers riding on Union Pacific locomotives to study motorist behavior at railroad crossings. These officers will then dispatch officers in patrol cars parked at nearby crossings to issue citations to those ignoring railroad warnings, and to remind motorists to obey railroad warnings for their own safety.

To help drivers as they approach railroad tracks and trains, Union Pacific offers the following safety tips:

• Approach a crossing like you expect a train and look both ways before crossing railroad tracks.

• Never attempt to beat approaching trains.

• Be certain there is enough room on the other side for your vehicle to completely clear the tracks.

• Be alert for school buses and commercial trucks that are required by law to stop at railroad crossings.

• In the event that your vehicle stalls at a crossing, get passengers out safely and escort them far from the area, even if the tracks are clear. Call the emergency notification number posted on or near the crossing or 911.

Help prevent tragic vehicle-train collisions and fatalities by practicing these railroad safety tips. More information about railroad safety is available through Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit public education program to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings. Their Web site can be found at

Along with motor vehicle safety, driver education helps ensure the safety of Americans. Whether you're getting your Commercial Drivers License, your Learner's Permit, or your Motorcycle License, America's Driver's License Headquarters is

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