Police officers jump on board for public safety campaign
By CHAD PILSTER
ELLIS -- With 412,000 pounds of metal under their feet, local law enforcement officers got a much different perspective on train crossing violators during an exercise Friday.
Police officers boarded a Union Pacific train and traveled back and forth through the community, issuing citations to pedestrians and vehicles crossing the tracks illegally. The campaign is intended to help raise public awareness about the importance of stopping a safe distance from railroad crossings.
This is the first time Ellis had participated in the Union Pacific's Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety campaign. Similar exercises were conducted in Hays Friday morning.
"It would be a perfect day if we don't write a single citation and everyone stayed safe," said Wade Isaacson, a Union Pacific police officer.
That, however, didn't prove to be the case. Ellis police officers issued two citations, while 12 were written in Hays.
Ellis Police Chief Taft Yates and officer Christopher Krom took turns riding in the train engine. The railroad police also stayed off the train and helped write citations.
Yates said it was a "good experience to learn about the locomotive itself," and what the people inside have to do to run the train.
"Sometimes people take things for granted, and this raises awareness," he said.
According to the law, once the lights start flashing on railroad crossings, cars and pedestrians must stop. Pedestrians only are allowed to cross the tracks at a marked crossing.
According to a Union Pacific news release, crossing collisions in the railroad industry have decreased by more than 80 percent since 1972. In 2011, however, 265 people died and 980 were injured as a result of a grade crossing collisions throughout the United States, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.