Rail crossing drill stresses safety

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

April 6, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated April 5, 2010 at 11:06 p.m.

Mike Tollett has had many close calls in his almost 39 years conducting the Union Pacific train.

Tollett has seen motorists try to beat trains by going around crossing barricades, but he has also seen traffic safety advocates picking up speed in stressing traffic safety.

"I think people are insensitive to trains and they get complacent," the conductor said. "They break their neck to get around the crossings."

On Tuesday, the Victoria Police Department, Victoria County Sheriff's Office and Cliff Mayton, the Union Pacific special agent for public safety, ran through some safety drills and debriefed about the importance of public awareness on railway safety.

A Union Pacific train traveled down the railway along Main Street in Victoria as officers and deputies issued citations to motorists who violated railway caution signs.

Police officers worked on the south of Airline Road and issued 18 citations during the morning exercise, said Traffic Safety Sgt. Julian Huerta.

Deputies worked on the north end of Airline Road and issued nine citations and one warning, said Lt. Gary Lytle.

Along with citations, law enforcement passed out information on what to do at railway crossings.

"It's a dangerous situation both to the person operating the motor vehicle as well as to the people that are operating the train itself," Mayton said. "Unfortunately we see it in Victoria as well as throughout the state and throughout the country."

Nationwide in 2008, there were 4,875 railroad accidents recorded, according to the Office of Safety Analysis of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Of the 4,875, there were 309 fatalities and 3,223 people injured.

Huerta, who has been with the police department for 20 years, said he is not surprised by the high number.

He has seen people cross the barricades many times before, he said.

Sometimes the best way is to issue a citation so next time the motorist will think twice before going around barricades, he said.

"Unfortunately, hitting people in the pocketbook is the best way," Huerta said.

It's a small price to pay to help pass on a message to save lives.

"It's all about getting the drivers aware of how dangerous these railroad crossings can be if they don't comply with traffic law," he said. "The train can't stop."



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