Law of the month

September - State Patrol September Law of the Month focuses on railroad safety

Wisconsin has more than 3,300 miles of active train tracks and more than 4,000 public railroad crossings. Last year, there were 48 train-related crashes in Wisconsin that resulted in nine injuries and four fatalities. In addition, four people were killed and two injured while trespassing on rail property. With national Rail Safety Week set for September 21 – 27, the Wisconsin State Patrol September Law of the Month focuses on safety at rail crossings and rail yards.

“Many crashes at rail crossings occur when drivers disregard warning signs or signals,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Tony Burrell said. “Trains require a considerable distance to slow down or stop. That’s why it’s vital for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to obey warning signs, eliminate distractions, look and listen carefully before crossing railroad tracks.”

State law (346.44) requires drivers to stop at railroad crossings when any warning device, traffic officer or railroad employee signals to stop. The law prohibits vehicle operators from driving “through, around or under any crossing gate or barrier.” A citation for driving through or around a
railroad crossing carries a fine of up to $400 and assessment of six demerit points.

Safety tips for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians:

  • Cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Obey all warning signs and signals. Never drive or walk around lowered crossing gates;
  • Remember that freight trains don’t have fixed schedules and can be seen any time of day;
  • Getting stuck in traffic within a rail crossing is dangerous. Before you cross, make sure you have enough room to clear the tracks. Trains overhang tracks by at least three feet on both sides;
  • Train tracks and rail yards are private property. Trespassing is illegal and dangerous.

“Safety at railroad crossings extends to all travelers including motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians,” Superintendent Burrell said. “Cell phones and other electronic devices can be dangerous distractions, but especially at rail crossings where you really need to focus, look and listen.”

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