Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Complain to Police? They're Just Following Their Assignment to Prevent Devastating Fatal Metra Crossing Accidents Downtown Arlington Heights

Three Arlington Heights police officers were out on an education campaign reminding people about safety at railroad crossings.

Technically according to the law, commuters aren't supposed to cross the tracks when the gates are down. That means if a pedestrian/commuter is late, and the gates are down and bells are ringing, and a train is approaching or stopped in the station; the pedestrian not supposed to cross the gate or the tracks.

Today police stopped commuters walking northbound on sidewalks on both sides of Vail Avenue when the gates were down. At 8:02 a.m. train #628 was slightly late. About 15 people on each side of the street were not permitted to cross the gate and missed Train #628.

A few people expressed their displeasure with police, and were engaged in a verbal dispute with each police officer on each side of Vail Avenue.

Many train vs. pedestrian fatalities occur when a second train -- usually a fast-moving express -- passes through on another track. It's just a bad habit to get into the practice of arriving late, violating the train crossing law and going across the tracks. People might safely violate the law and cross the tracks on a clear sunny day with fully visibility both ways down an empty track next to the stopped train; but other complexities, such as distractions at the crossing, bad weather and night time visibility increase the chance of a fatal human error. These type of accidents or similar accidents occur almost weekly on Metra crossings in Chicagoland.

Ironically, a Metra conductor appeared to wave at the people the police had stopped, apparently signaling them that it was OK to cross the lowered gate. The police spoke with the conductor, and did not permit people waiting on the sidewalk to respond to the apparent directions of the conductor.

The role of Police Officers at the train station this morning was to remind people to follow the law related to railroad crossings and be aware of their surroundings at train stations and railroad crossings. The goal of this educational campaign is to keep a tragedy from occurring on the railroad tracks. To remain safe please follow the ten tips offered by Operation Lifesaver when crossing railroad tracks:

Walking or playing on railroad tracks is dangerous and illegal

Be prepared to stop at crossings

Cross the tracks at designated railroad crossings only

Look for crossbuck sign, lights or gates at crossings

Listen for warning bells or whistles

Obey the signals

If only one train passes, make sure a second train is not approaching on another track in the same or opposite direction

Obey the directions of a police officer or member of a train crew directing traffic at a crossing

Cross the tracks in low gear; do not change gears while crossing

If your vehicle stalls on the tracks, get out quickly and away from the vehicle and tracks; call the emergency number posted at or near the crossing and call 9-1-1

On the official Facebook page for the Village of Arlington Heights, at least two people commented that they supported the education and/or enforcement efforts of police. One comment posted said, "Saw 3 cops at AH station this morning having coffee while they watched a lady run around gates in front of train. They did nothing." But the associated pictures with this article show otherwise.

For more information about Illinois Rail Safety Week, please visit www.illinoisrailsafetyweek.org.

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