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Rail crossing laws save lives

September 27, 2018

HARLINGEN — The best way to stay on track with your life is to stay off the tracks throughout your life.

“ A person or vehicle gets hit every three hours in the U.S. by trains,” said Juan Sosa, Union Pacific Railroad special agent.

“ They don’t observe the traffic laws,” Sosa said. “Kids walk on the tracks and they have earplugs on and they can’t hear the trains.”

A Union Pacific train blew its horn and rang bells yesterday morning as it approached a crossing. In spite of the flashing red lights, a truck pulling a trailer moved across the line where it was supposed to stop.

It stopped over the line and the gate dropped on top of it. Two Cameron County constables turned on their lights and pulled the driver over.

This kind of scene is played over and over again throughout the U.S., often with more dire consequences than a traffic ticket. That’s why Operation Lifesaver, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and other organizations, is celebrating the Second Annual National Rail Safety Week.

Rail workers had all kinds of advice to help people stay safe around railroads.

“ As soon as that light starts blinking, you have to come to a complete stop,” Sosa said. “Disregard the cell phones.”

The small Union Pacific train made several trips yesterday between Harlingen and Combes to bring awareness to rail safety. The train moved passed businesses, residential areas, and beneath underpasses, an integral part of so many lives.

Trains have been the stuff of nostalgia since they first hit the rails. Writers often describe the sounds of trains rolling by in the night. They have been a vital form of transportation, especially in the 19th Century before trucks and airplanes arrived. Yesterday’s train is often used to transport wood, oil, corn and other grains, and perhaps tractors, as well as other materials.

The whole experience is to the liking of train conductor Joaquin Marquez, 41.

“ It’s something different every day,” he said.

He’s never had a tragic accident, but he recalled a recent incident in which a man walking on the tracks didn’t hear the approaching train because he was wearing headphones. The man was killed.

“ Rail safety is very important,” he said. “People need to be aware that they need to respect railroad laws. It will save lives.”

Safety is the key to safe passage of pedestrians, vehicles and trains. Working together, the occupants can enjoy each other’s company for many years to come.

twhitehead@valleystar.com

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