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Need to heed lights, gates at rail crossings — and stay off tracks

Today, the Wisconsin State Patrol has partnered with local law enforcement agencies across the state to enforce laws and help educate travelers on the dangers associated with disregarding rail crossing signs and gates and trespassing on railroad property.

Sponsored by Operation Lifesaver and Amtrak Police, Operation Clear Track now is in its third year and represents the single largest railroad safety law enforcement initiative in the United States and Canada.

Law enforcement agencies today will target rail crossings with higher levels of motorist and train traffic, watching for people trespassing on rail property and for drivers who disobey crossing signs and signals.

“Like all of our enforcement efforts, the goal of this initiative is public safety,” Wisconsin State Patrol Major Adrian Logan said. “Officers will take enforcement action when warranted, but the primary focus is to educate people on laws that serve to protect travelers and save lives.”

Officers are being provided railroad safety cards that will be distributed to motorists and pedestrians. The cards offer tips and information about rail crossing safety and dangers of trespassing on railroad property.

Wisconsin has more than 3,300 miles of active train tracks and more than 4,000 public railroad crossings. In 2018, Wisconsin had 39 train-related crashes that resulted in 12 injuries and four fatalities. In addition, three fatalities and three injuries resulted from people trespassing on rail property.

Rail safety tips for motorists and pedestrians include:

— Cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Obey all warning signs and signals. Never drive or walk around lowered crossing gates.

— Trains can take a mile or more to stop. Freight trains don’t have fixed schedules and can be seen any time of day.

— When carefully crossing railroad tracks, make sure to have enough room to get safely across. Getting stuck in traffic within a crossing is dangerous. Remember that trains overhang tracks by at least 3 feet on both sides.

— Train tracks and rail yards are private property, so it is illegal and dangerous to trespass on rail property.

Locations where law enforcement officers planned to monitor rail crossings today include U.S. 41 and Country Meadows Road in the Town of Peshtigo in Marinette County.

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