Crossing railroad tracks can be dangerous, especially if the driver is not paying close attention.
The Joshua Police Department participated in Operation Clear Track on Tuesday, the largest railroad safety law enforcement operation to date in the United States, along with more than 460 police or sheriff departments in the country. The initiative is operated by Amtrack and the national Operation Lifesaver Inc. program during National Rail Safety Week.
“No one should think it’s OK, even one time, to ignore grade crossing or trespassing laws on railroad property,” Amtrak Police Chief Neil Trugman said. “This safety detail will deliver that message to thousands of people in-person today to try and stop these tragic rail-related incidents that occur every day in someone’s home town.”
The initiative started last year with the goal to save lives by alerting the public to the dangers of being inattentive at rail grade crossings and along the railroad right-of-way.
One of the crossings the JPD patrolled was at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad crossing on 14th street.
Last week, Texas Department of Transportation officials closed that intersection for improvements, which came after a man suffered non-life threatening injuries on Aug. 29 after a train struck the van he was driving as he was waiting at the crossing for a train to pass. The train stopped just before the crossing and remained there for some time, witnesses at the scene said, so the man drove around the rail arms.
At that same time, an Amtrak train traveling northbound was also going through the crossing and struck the van.
Rescue workers extricated the driver from the van and transported to John Peter Smith Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. No injuries were reported on board the Amtrak train.
It took rescue workers about an hour and a half to clear the van from the train tracks, with BNSF investigators on scene.
Debris from the impact broke windows in the city’s animal control building, which sits adjacent to the track. There were also no injuries reported at the shelter.
Joshua Police Chief Shaun Short said with a busy rail line crossing major roadways, practicing rail safety is important for the community.
“That importance was underscored Aug. 29 when a major crash was attributed to driving around rail road warning arms.” Short said. “In addition to rail crossing hazards, our officers respond far too often to reports of persons walking on or around tracks, a very dangerous practice.
“This program is an opportunity to raise public awareness and highlight the importance of rail safety.”
While patrolling the railroad crossings, he said the officers enforced grade crossing laws and shared rail safety information with residents.
Amtrak and Operation Lifesaver Inc. have several tips that drivers can take at railroad crossings:
• Never walk, run, play or take pictures on the railroad right-of-way. If you are on or near the tracks, you are trespassing on private property and breaking the law.
• Never attempt to outrun an approaching train. It can take a train a mile or more to stop.
• If you’re standing on the train tracks, you may not hear or feel an oncoming train in time to get away safely.
• Only cross the tracks at designated public crossings.
• Never drive or walk around lowered grade crossing gates.
• Never attempt to outrun an approaching train.
• Never stop your vehicle on a grade crossing waiting for traffic to move.
• Never begin to drive across the tracks unless you can get all the way across.
• Always call the Emergency Notification System number 24 hours a day to report problems or obstructions at the crossing. Look for the number on the blue sign near the crossing or on the crossbuck.
• Always know that the average train is 3 feet wider than the track on each side.
• Always slow down and stop your vehicle prior to train tracks when lights begin to flash.