Officials cracking down on railroad track violators

January 19, 2012 11:11:12 AM PST
On Thursday, the Texas Highway Patrol started cracking down on drivers who don't pay attention to the warning signs at railroad crossings.

It's a dangerous and deadly chance DPS says drivers are taking when they try to beat trains. Law enforcement agencies are joining together for a major initiative to enforce safety at railroad crossings.

"It's very hard for us to stop," said one Union Pacific worker.

Union Pacific invited Eyewitness News onboard and showed us and it didn't take long to spot dangerously close calls in their path.

"Look at that 18-wheeler behind us, its tail is on the track," said the worker.

Drivers were rushing to beat the train and forced to stop on the tracks and then there were those who simply ignored the crossing arms altogether.

"We are blowing and blowing trying to warn them we are coming. It's really nerve-wrecking knowing we are helpless," said another worker.

The Federal Railroad Administration says the majority of accidents happened when drivers tried to race across the tracks before the train made it to the railroad crossing.

Just last week,a 16-year-old Liberty County high school student was killed at a railroad crossing. According to our Houston Community Newspaper partner, the Cleveland Advocate, the boy was a passenger in a friend's pickup truck when that driver tried to beat a train.

Law enforcement wants to prevent heart break like this so they are cracking down on railroad crossing laws.

"One is not stopping closer than 15 feet to the tracks. Another is not actually stopping on the tracks and then obviously if the gate arms and lights are active and they go down and motorists are required not to go around those," said Special Agent Cliff Mayton with the Union Pacific Railroad Police Department.

In the end, officials are hoping the warnings will save lives.

"Drivers, please, when those arms and gates are coming down, stop," said a railroad worker.

Several drivers were cited Thursday. This type of enforcement is led by Union Pacific and done throughout the year. Violators could face a Class C misdemeanor and a fine up to $200.