Participating in this event were the Eunice Police Department, Opelousas Police Department, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and Union Pacific Railroad Police.
As the 2,000-horsepower Union Pacific locomotive lumbered along its tracks Thursday, some drivers tried to beat the train. They didn’t realize police officers were waiting.
A lookout officer was holed up inside the back-to-back locomotives, looking for drivers who crossed the tracks while railroad crossing lights were still active or who tried to navigate around the crossing gates.
Also in the locomotive was Senior Special Agent Terrill Vandergriff with Union Pacific Railroad Police, Captain Eddie Thibodeaux and Lieutenant Megan Vizena with the St. Landry Sheriff’s Office along with Chief Ronald Dies and Lieutenant Richard Daigle with the Eunice Police Department who observed the exercise.
Captain Thibodeaux said, “We started conducting this exercise about five 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, we are writing less than 20. 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 aren’t paying attention. Any wreck or accident that takes place at a crossing is preventable,” Thibodeaux added.
According to sState 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 listen 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 $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. The 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 over railroad tracks to please obey all crossing signs and to Look, Listen and LIVE