Iowa Town Chosen for Railroad Crossing Safety Campaign

By DEREK SULLIVAN, Daily Nonpareil | June 17, 2016

Traffic officers with the Council Bluffs Police Department saw a surprising number of drivers try to beat moving trains through intersections during a couple of recent law enforcement campaigns.

Last week, during Railroad Crossing Enforcement and Education Week, the Federal Railroad Administration chose Council Bluffs, Iowa, for two law enforcement campaigns.

The Iowa State Patrol, Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Railroad joined the FRA and Council Bluffs Police Department for the enforcement efforts.

Council Bluffs police Sgt. Jason Bailey told the Daily Nonpareil that Council Bluffs was chosen because of its high number – 118 – of railroad crossings.

On Tuesday, June 7, an enforcement project was conducted on the local Union Pacific main line. Bailey said during the three hours of the project, officers witnessed 21 railroad crossing violations and five trespassing violations. On Wednesday, June 8, the project was conducted along the Burlington Northern line, which runs in front of the Manawa Power Center. During the two hours of that project Bailey said there were four crossing violations as well as five other citations, including insurance and speeding.

“I have to say I was surprised by the number of citations we handed out in a short time,” Bailey said. “We know it happens, but I didn’t think we would hand out 26 violations on the Union Pacific main line.”

railroad crossing signEven with crossing arms and flashing lights, drivers do try and beat trains, not always succeeding. In 2015 in Iowa, there were 44 crossing collisions between a vehicle and a moving train. Nationally, there were 1,874 collisions with 237 fatalities. Also, it’s not just vehicles that try and beat trains, walkers also race across tracks. In 2015 in the United States, there were 470 fatalities due to trespassing on train tracks.

“The Council Bluffs Police Department would like to remind all drivers of the dangers of running a railroad crossing when trains are present,” Bailey said. “These trains are unable to stop quickly and the dangers are increased tremendously when trains are involved.

“Remember if the lights start flashing, motorists are required to stop prior to the intersection. If crossing arms are present at the intersection, motorists must remain until the arms are up and the lights have stopped flashing,” Bailey said. “If they’re only flashing red lights at the intersection, motorists are required to stop and may only proceed when it is safe to do so.”

In Iowa, pedestrians are not allowed at any time to be on the tracks except for crossing at designated intersections. Bailey said if someone is caught walking along the tracks or crossing them at any other location, the walker is subject to arrest or citation for trespassing.

While the Council Bluffs Police Department may not work with the Federal agencies on future law enforcement campaigns, Bailey said his traffic department would be on the lookout for drivers and walker who violate rules regarding train tracks.