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McHenry County Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

According to Operation Lifesaver, you are 40 times more likely to die in a crash with a train than you are to die in a vehicle crash . Railroad fatalities and injuries are a major concern in Illinois. The state is looking to change this, as Governor Pat Quinn has declared this week, September 14-20, as the first Illinois Rail Safety Week. Over 300 organizations across the state have agreed to take part in this week's safety event.

The goal of this new state initiative is to reduce the number of deaths and injuries that occur each year on or near Illinois railroad tracks. This week will focus on promoting vehicle and pedestrian safety around railroad crossings and trains through education, engineering and enforcement, all of which play a fundamental role in maintaining safe rail crossings.

The education portion of the campaign includes increasing public awareness about the dangers of railroad crossings and educating pedestrians and motorists to make smart, safe decisions when near railroad tracks. In terms of engineering, Illinois is making an extra effort to promote continued engineering research and innovation to further improve the safety and technology in place at railroad crossings across the state. Additionally, law enforcement will conduct active monitoring and enforcement of traffic laws relating to railroad crossing signs, signals and also help enforce private property laws related to trespassing near railroad tracks.

Illinois Rail Safety Week was initiated by state of Illinois in conjunction with several sponsor organizations including: the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois Commerce Commission, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Operation Lifesaver, Illinois Sheriff's Association, the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association, the CN Railroad Police Department and the Mid-west Truckers Association.

Illinois Railroad Accidents

In 2013, the state of Illinois ranked third in the nation for both vehicle collision fatalities and trespasser fatalities. To break this ranking down, there were 126 train crossing motor vehicle accidents that resulted in 40 injuries and 21 fatalities. There were also 52 trespasser incidents, which caused 27 injuries and 25 fatalities when pedestrians trespassed on railroad property.

While this ranking is alarming, it is important to note that Illinois has the second largest rail system of any state in the nation, with more than 7,400 miles of railroad track, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission. Furthermore, Chicago is the largest rail hub in the United States and third largest intermodal container and trailer port in the world, behind Singapore and Hong Kong. The state hopes that improving awareness will help decrease the number of injuries and deaths along railroad tracks.

Illinois Pedestrian and Motor Vehicle Safety Tips

It is important to realize that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if an engineer sees a person or motor vehicle on the tracks, it takes the average train more than one mile to stop which is equivalent to about 20 football fields.

It is also crucial to remain proactive to help prevent a tragedy from occurring either on or around railroad tracks. According to Illinois Operation Lifesaver there are several significant guidelines to remember when crossing or traveling near railroad tracks that can help prevent injury:

  • Be prepared to stop at all railroad crossings.
  • Walking or playing on train tracks at any time is considered not only dangerous, but also illegal.
  • Whether on foot or by car, only cross railroad tracks at designated railroad crossings and look for the cross buck signs, lights or safety gates. Crossing at any other place on the tracks can be considered illegal trespassing.
  • When you cross the tracks in a motor vehicle, travel in low gear, do not change gears while crossing. If for some reason your vehicle stalls on the tracks, get out of the vehicle as quickly as possible, get away from the vehicle and tracks, and immediately call 911.
  • Listen for warning bells and whistles and be sure to obey the signals. Once the warning signals begin, it can take as little as 20 seconds for the train to arrive. However, there are some designated "quiet zones" at railroad crossings. This means you may not hear a train approaching or the train may seem farther away than it actually is, so always be in tune with your surroundings.
  • Do not approach and cross the tracks until you can see clearly in each direction after a train passes. This precaution is for the event that there may be a second train quickly approaching.
  • You must wait until the crossing signals stop and gates are raised to safely and legally cross the tracks. Additionally, you should obey the directions of any and all law enforcement or railroad officials directing traffic at a crossing.

Illinois Railroad Laws and Violations

During Illinois Rail Safety Week there will also be stepped up enforcement at railroad crossings. Illinois law enforcement officials will attempt to crack down on pedestrians and drivers who violate railroad crossing and trespassing laws. Authorities will focus on issuing warnings, but are prepared to issue citations if a violation is deemed severe enough.

Below are some examples of Illinois railroad violations and the penalties that may come along with them:

Passing bridge and railroad signals. (625 ILCS 5/11-1011C) This statute says no pedestrian shall enter or remain upon any bridge or approach beyond the bridge signal, gate or barrier after a bridge operation signal indication has been given. Also, no pedestrian shall pass through, around, over, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad grade crossing or bridge while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed. Furthermore, no pedestrian shall enter, remain upon or cross over a railroad grade crossing or pedestrian walkway crossing when an audible bell or clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device is operational giving warning of the presence, approach, passage, or departure of a railroad train. Pedestrians who violate this statute can face a minimum fine of $250 for the first violation, and $500 for second and subsequent violations, plus a must appear in court order.

Trespassing on railroad property is prohibited. (625 ILCS 5/18C-7503) This statute says that no person may walk, ride, drive or be upon or along the right of way or rail yard of a rail carrier, other than at a public crossing. Penalties for this violation include a Class C Misdemeanor for the first offense, and Class A Misdemeanor for second and subsequent offense. A minimum fine of $150 and maximum fine of $500 can be required for the first offense. A second time offender can see a subsequent fine of between $500 and $1,000 and a judge may also seek jail time.

Certain vehicles must stop at railroad grade crossings. (625 ILCS 5/11-1202) The drivers of certain vehicles such as, any second division vehicle carrying passengers for hire or school buses, must stop before crossing a railroad track. The vehicle must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail and, while stopped, must listen and look for the approach of a train or railroad track equipment and shall not proceed until such movement can be made safely. A driver caught breaking this law can be faced with a $120 bond and a conviction of this section can result in a 60 disqualification of a CDL for a first offense.

Contact a McHenry County Pedestrian and Car Accident Attorney

While there are several safety measures in place at railroad crossings, accidents still happen. Unfortunately, even a minor incident with a train can cause significant injury or death. If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian or car accident involving a train, contact us online or call 815-338-3838 to schedule a free initial consultation at our Crystal Lake law firm. Our experienced Crystal Lake personal injury lawyers offer flexible appointment times and are available for home visits if you cannot travel. We assist clients throughout McHenry, Cook, Lake DeKalb, Boone, Kane, and Winnebago Counties.

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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