Rail crossing safety

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DECATUR, Ill. (WAND)- After a series of deadly and dangerous train collisions, WAND is taking a closer look at rail crossings and how state officials decide which crossings warrant special signals.

A Wednesday collision between a train and a car in Christian County left five people dead. State records show the crossing was marked by a crossing sign and yield sign but no lights or gates; they also show no prior crashes at the site.

A Friday collision between a train and truck in Montgomery County left one man seriously injured. State records show that crossing was also marked with a crossing and yield sign but no lights or gates; records showed no prior collisions at that site either.

A Sunday collision in Bement left a 14-year-old boy dead, authorities said. State records show the nearby crossing at the site was marked with lights and gates. They report no collisions at the crossing since the 1970s.

Illinois maintains a special Grade Crossing Protection Fund that receives about $39 million per year to improve the safety of crossings. Installing lights and gates, however, could cost between $200,000 and $300,000.

Chip Pew of the Illinois Operation Lifesaver said officials weight a number of factors when deciding which crossings receive new gates and lights.

“You try and focus your resources where you feel like you might have a higher chance of an incident occurring,” Pew said. “How many trains are crossing there? How many vehicles are crossing the tracks? What types of vehicles are crossing the tracks?”

Pew said that, nationally, more than half of collisions happen at crossings with lights and gates. He said that could be because those crossings are busier than others.

Pew also said that education efforts have paid off in Illinois, with the number of crashes falling from about 800 in 1976 to 120 in 2016.

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