ST. LANDRY PARISH, La. (KALB News Channel 5) -- Area law enforcement officers rode the rails Tuesday, June 24, 2014 to write 8 citations for railroad-crossing violations as part of a safety exercise organized by Operation Lifesaver Union Pacific C.A.R.E. (Crossing Accident Reduction Education). Participating in this event was St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, Opelousas Police Department and Union Pacific Railroad Police.
As the 2,000-horsepower Union Pacific locomotive lumbered along its tracks, some drivers tried to beat the train. They didn't realize police officers were waiting. A lookout officer was inside the locomotive, looking for drivers who crossed the tracks while railroad crossing lights were still active, or who tried to navigate around the crossing gates.
Major Eddie Thibodeaux with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office said, “We started conducting this exercise about eight years ago and we have seen a significant drop in citations issued. Years ago, we would write well over 50 citations in one day. Now, 8 years later, we are writing less than 10. This means drivers are more cautious of the railroad crossings.”
"There are thousands of people killed every year because they tried to beat the train, or just weren’t paying attention. Any wreck or accident that takes place at a crossing is preventable," Thibodeaux added.
According to state law, the driver of a vehicle shall slow down to a speed reasonable for existing conditions, or shall stop if necessary before entering the intersection. After having listened and looked, the driver shall yield the right of way to any approaching train and then shall proceed only upon exercising due care and upon being sure that it is safe to proceed.
The law also prohibits any person to walk on the tracks or railroad property. The penalty for the violation ranges from $200 or 30 days in jail on the first violation. The second violation is not more than $500 or not more than 90 days and required to attend a court approved driver improvement course. The agents all agree that citations are costly but the cost of human life is greater. T
he track speeds range from 50 MPH to 60 MPH in the rural areas and noted that trains cannot stop as quickly as vehicles can.
Sheriff Bobby J. Guidroz urges all drivers that cross railroad tracks to please obey all crossing signs and to Look, Listen and LIVE!