ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Police officers and deputies across Central Florida teamed up with more than 600 law enforcement agencies on Tuesday for the largest rail safety initiative in the United States.
“Operation Clear Track” is an effort that focuses on raising awareness and enforcing railroad crossing and trespassing laws. The fifth annual initiative takes place during Rail Safety Week, which is Sept. 20-26.
In Orange County, deputies patrolled several high-traffic railroad crossings to make sure vehicles didn’t stop too close to the tracks.
“As the red light gets backed up and people stack up towards the rail, people get impatient and stop actually on the track waiting for the light to turn green,” Lt. Mike Crabb said. “That’s a big no-no. A lot of times, the stop bars come down, they get trapped in the middle and don’t know what to do and then the train hits them.”
According to Operation Livesaver, Inc., there are approximately 2,000 serious injuries or deaths each year in the U.S. around railroad tracks an trains.
“(Trains) can’t stop like a car. It takes a lot of acreage for train to stop, so they’re going to hit you if you’re on the tracks,” Crabb said.
Drivers found breaking the law in Florida could face a $164 fine. Deputies pulled over dozens of vehicles early Tuesday and said their main goal was education.
“(Stopping on the tracks) creates a mess that is preventable,” Crabb said. “That’s the biggest point of it we’re trying to make: it’s preventable.”
Crabb said increased traffic enforcement will remain in place at railroad crossings through Sunday.