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June 02, 2014 04:55 PM

SF Police Stress Railroad Crossing Safety

Sioux Falls, SD

A train's whistle is a loud warning for any cars trying to beat a train across a railroad crossing. Sioux Falls Police officers are working with train crews to try and prevent any major collisions.

"Everybody's in a hurry to get someplace and they don't want to be delayed by a train. So, they try to make it across the tracks in a quick fashion," Sioux Falls Police Lieutenant Troy Lubbers said.

Drivers are crossing at their own risk.

"We're trying to educate people about the dangers of our trains, railroad crossings in general and to be aware of the fact that any time a train can be at a crossing, 24/7," field safety manager Tom Micek said.

In one day of observations a year ago, 28 citations were issued to people who drove through a railroad crossing when the lights were flashing red.  Six citations were made Monday in one hour. That's a $120 fine as a reminder that lives are at risk.

"With automobiles, you'll have possibly a wreck with a different automobile. In this situation here, you're dealing with a train that weighs probably 4,000 to one more than what your vehicle is," Micek said.

When the red lights are flashing, drivers are supposed to stop 50 feet away from the railroad crossing until the lights are no longer there.  That still isn't keeping people from rushing ahead.

"It's not about writing a traffic citation; it's about making sure that people are aware that the flashing red lights are on for a reason and they need to stop before they hit that grade crossing," Lubbers said.

According to the South Dakota Department of Transportation between 2008 and 2012, 63 accidents involving trains and cars were reported in South Dakota with seven fatalities and 11 injuries. Most of those accidents (nine) happened in Minnehaha County.

If you would like some tips on how to stay safer near railroad crossings, visit the South Dakota Safety Council website.

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