SCOTT CITY, MO (KFVS) - Lights flash, a train whistle sounds, but these familiar warning signs are sometimes not enough to stop a driver from cutting across the tracks putting their lives at risk.
That is why Union Pacific Railroad teamed up with law enforcement in Scott City, Missouri on Thursday Aug. 30 to urge drivers to change their bad habits when it comes to crossing railroads.
Ken Maudie of Cape Girardeau said he typically plays it safe, but has risked going over the tracks to avoid waiting for a train.
“The gates just started to come down, the train was a good distance away, and I said, ‘you know what I got this,’” Maudie said. “I didn’t slow down, still within the speed limit, got over and then on I went."
Several railroad crossings in Scott City are near stop signs, and sometimes vehicles are still waiting on the tracks as a train approaches.
Special Agent Matthew Havard with Union Pacific Police and officers were issuing warnings to drivers on Thursday and telling them when and how to safely cross railroad intersections.
“Trying to beat a train, or standing, stopping, getting caught on the tracks because they weren't mindful enough to know their vehicle was clear, there is tremendous risk involved,” Havard said. “These incidents can affect an entire community. That is our concern, that is why our number one priority is safety."
Freight trains typically travel 55 miles per hour, and when they hit the brakes it can take up to a mile to fully stop.
Agent Havard said risking it is a matter of life and death.
"It's hard to judge those speeds, how fast they are moving and the distance they can travel, and they are going in both directions,” he said. “That is why it's extremely important to take the time to really look at both directions pause, see if there is any activated crossings, see if there is a train in close proximity."
While Maudie does think it's inconvenient to wait for a train, he does not plan to risk it again.
"There is a lot of ways you can end up hurt or even killed at that point so there is no reason to risk it,” Maudie said. “You're life is more important than just two minutes."
Havard said it’s also important for pedestrians and bikers to stay off the tracks and only cross them at the railroad intersections.