Officials remind of rail dangers

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Many motorists are putting their lives at risk by using adangerous maneuver almost every day — without even realizingit.

Railroad officials are alarmed by the number of people violatingstate law by having little or no regard for traffic warning devicesat crossings.

“Most people don’t know that it is against the state law to goaround warning gates that are down,” said J.R. Kyzar, trainmasterfor Canadian National/Illinois Central.

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The rush of everyday life causes some people to become annoyedor feel like they need to spend their time doing something besideswaiting on a train, so they dangerously attempt to make it throughcrossings, Kyzar said

“There are a lot of citizens trying to out run the trains, andit’s very dangerous,” said Kyzar.

Railroad officials said motorists should never try to get aheadof a train, because it could be moving at speeds up to 79 miles perhour.

“Our first concern is to operate a safe railroad in thecommunity we serve,” said Kyzar. “People really need to obey thelaws so there won’t be any accidents.”

Most drivers do not realize there is not enough time to make agood decision about a train’s speed or distance once they hear orsee it, according to Jimmy Furlow, Brookhaven’s trafficcoordinator.

“From the time that arm starts down, the train is in thatintersection in 26 seconds,” he said.

Since the railroad tracks in Brookhaven were narrowed from twosets of tracks to just one, the maneuver around the gates is evenmore dangerous. The gates are closer, and that makes it trickier,Kyzar pointed out.

Motorists should be aware that is almost completely up to themto clear a railroad crossing before a train enters it, headded.

“A train’s not like a car. They can’t swerve or slam on brakesand stop immediately,” said Kyzar.

State lawmakers and railroad officials believe it is best toremain in a stopped position when the warning lights are flashingand the gates are down. The act of trying to get around warninggates is punishable by a fine, just like running a red light orstop sign.

Even if the traffic warning devices are malfunctioning,motorists should still not attempt to go around them, rather call arailroad official to report it and find an alternate route.

Motorists also endanger their lives daily by not stopping orslowing at each and every railroad crossing.

“Those cross bucks serve as a yield sign. You should come up toa crossing prepared to stop and yield to a train. When you see it’sclear then you can go,” Kyzar explained.

Officials say it is especially important to use caution at everyrailroad crossing because many do not have flashing lights andwarning gates. Only a few railroad crossings in the county have theextra traffic warning devices. The following city streets do nothave them at railroad crossings: Union, Hartman, North Jackson,Drury, Josephine and Brookhaven Streets, along with West IndustrialPark Road and Manufacturer’s Boulevard.

East Industrial Park Road does not have flashing lights andwarning gates either, but those devices have been ordered by theMississippi Department of Transportation, which is responsible fordeciding what intersections get the devices.

Railroad officials are thankful each time more traffic warningdevices are placed at railroad crossings. They hope MDOT willcontinue to survey local crossings and realize how important it isfor every crossing to have extra protection.

“They’re installing more crossing protection every year,although it probably won’t be enough until all are protected,” saidElzie Chance with Canadian National/Illinois Central.