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Suffolk pushes railroad safety campaign after uptick in collisions

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Posted at 10:47 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 23:32:45-05

SUFFOLK, Va. – It’s a race you’ll most likely lose when you’re up against a fast-moving, powerful train.

“It takes a long time for them to get the speed down, so people need to be aware of that when thinking they’re trying to beat a train, which is always a bad idea,” said Tim Kelley, the media and community relations assistant director for the City of Suffolk.

The Suffolk Police Department has pushed out a new message for drivers. The department recently posted a minute-long PSA to its Facebook page reminding drivers to be safe and use common sense around railroad crossings. The hope is to inform drivers and prevent tragedies.

“We recommend people stay safely back, follow the markings that are on the roadway to stay your proper distance from that,” Kelley said.

The safety campaign comes after Kelley said the city had an uptick in crashes involving cars and trains in the last three weeks.

The latest incident happened Saturday morning, Dec. 12, where the driver of an SUV suffered serious injuries and the boy in the car was left critically injured.

“As of Saturday night, my understanding is both were in stable condition,” said Kelley.

That man was charged with reckless driving.

This year, Kelley said there have been a total of six car wrecks involving trains. No train derailments and no deaths were reported, but many of the victims suffered serious injuries.

In most of the cases, Kelley said drivers were attempting to go around a lowering gate.

“When the gate comes down, stop,” he said. “The best philosophy is stop, look, listen when you come to a railroad crossing.”

A section of track near the police station downtown is where Kelley said there was a fatal collision last December. He said a man was walking his bike too close to the train when he was hit and killed.

Trains always have the right of way, and when it comes to stopping, it takes a train a length of at least 18 football fields.

“It takes approximately a mile or more for a train to stop,” Kelley said. “It’s the theory of, 'don’t think the trains stop on a dime' - they don’t.”

Unless you’re at a crossing, it’s illegal for a car to be on or near train tracks. If your car stalls in a crossing, get out and call the number on the sign or 911.

Ignoring railroad warning signals could cost you a traffic violation. Even worse, risking your chances against a train could cost you your life.

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