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Crackdown raises railroad-crossing safety

November 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A crackdown on drivers who violate traffic laws at railroad crossings is part of an effort to increase safety around trains and save lives.You'd think people would get the message not to try and beat the train. But in recent years officers say they've noticed a steady number of accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles.

One bicyclist said he still can't believe the risks he sees people take as he rides around his neighborhood.

"I just shake my head," said cyclist and San Gabriel resident Vincent Ybarra. "I just go, 'What are these people doing?' Everybody's in a hurry."

In the course of three and a half hours Thursday morning, the Union Pacific Police Dept., along with officers from other departments in the San Gabriel Valley, wrote more than 100 citations because motorists failed to obey traffic laws around railroad crossings. They also impounded six cars.

In the city of San Gabriel, Eyewitness News took a ride in a Union Pacific locomotive to see the risks people will take to avoid waiting for a train to pass.

Going around the crossing gates can cost you between $261 to $471 -- or something much more valuable.

"You go through the crossing, you're going to get hit. Train's going to win. The equivalency of a train hitting a car is the equivalence of a car crushing a 12-ounce aluminum can," said Union Police Officer Jorge Villaescusa.

The area along the tracks is private property. You could be cited or arrested for trespassing, so it isn't a smart idea to walk around here.

And what you may not know is that trains can be deceptively quiet. Back in September, two people were killed when they were asleep near the tracks in Mission Viejo.

"Earlier I had a trespasser that was walking along the tracks with his headphones on. I was blowing my air-horn, yelling. He would not listen to me because he had his headphones blasting," said Villaescusa.

This is the peak season for railroad traffic because Christmas is just several weeks away. Law enforcement wants you to be aware and extra careful when you approach.


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