Risking it on the railroad: Increase in reports of drivers illegally crossing the tracks

Risking it on the railroad: Increase in reports of drivers illegally crossing the tracks
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Amarillo Police investigated recent claims of drivers disregarding lowered railroad crossing gates, and found them to be true.

They're now encouraging people to think twice before putting their lives at risk

"I don't know if it's happening more or we're just getting more reports on it but we did look at it," said Corporal Jeb Hilton with APD's Crime Prevention Unit.

Hilton said they looked into security camera footage from a railroad crossing near the 600 block of north Eastern Street.

They found between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., 10 vehicles disregarded the closed gates and drove across the tracks.

"Speaking for the police department, one is going to be too many," said Hilton. "We don't want anyone passing through these. We want everybody to sit there, wait for the train to go by and then safely pass once the arms are up."

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It appears illegal crossing is an issue state-wide.

2017 Federal Railroad Administration statistics show Texas holds a concerning title: We are ranked number one in the nation for collisions at rail road crossings.

There were 232 incidents, resulting in 13 deaths - one of which was in Amarillo.

"A train traveling at 50 miles per hour takes one mile to stop and unlike a vehicle on the highway, we have no room to swerve to avoid the accident," said Joseph Faust, director of public affairs at BNSF railway. "I can't tell you how important it is for us, as the primary freight railroad operating there in the Amarillo area, to make sure the community is safe. One of the measures we put in to make sure the community is safe are those crossing arms warning devices near and after railroad crossings."

Hilton says some citizens speculate the reason for the illegal crossing is due to the crossing arms malfunctioning. Regardless, he said it's better to be safe than sorry.

"The thing about these accidents is they're 100 percent avoidable," said Hilton. "All you have to do is wait for the train to go by and then safely proceed through the railroad tracks. We want you to slow down, take a few minutes to just get where you're going. Make sure you get there because we don't want to show up to your house and tell your family that you're not coming home tonight."

Amarillo Police also want to remind you that this action is against the law, and is punishable by a fine of no less than $50 and no more than $200.

If you do see a railroad crossing that is malfunctioning, you're advised to report it to BNSF at 1-800-832-5452.

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