By Lisa Morton
The Van Horn Advocate participated in a safety event Tuesday with Union Pacific Police. Advocate General Manager, Lisa Morton, and photographer, Dan Baeza, climbed into the cab of a locomotive to observe motorists’ behavior at the John Conoly Road railroad crossing east of Van Horn and in town. The event was part of Union Pacific’s Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety (UP CARES) program, which brings together communities in a collaborative and caring effort to promote railroad crossing and pedestrian safety.
The John Conoly Road crossing was picked since it has been the site of several truck/train collisions including one fatality last year. In response to this safety concern and through a collaborative effort with Union Pacific, Culberson County, TxDOT, and the Burro Sand Mine, a lighted stop sign and billboard safety sign have been installed at the site.
Railroad crossing safety is a vital, yet often overlooked part of accident prevention. Freight trains traveling 55 miles per hour take more than a mile to stop, which is why drivers are urged to stop in designated areas when railroad signals, flashers, and gates indicate a train is approaching pedestrian safety. Each year, over 2,000 collisions occur between motor vehicles and trains in the U.S. causing more than 200 deaths and 400 injuries.
Officers riding inside the locomotive observed motorist behavior at railroad crossings and dispatched the officer positioned nearby if motorists ignored signals and warnings. Additionally, officers looked for pedestrians crossing or walking on the tracks. This was a joint operation, combining efforts and resources from the Culberson County Sheriff’s Office and Union Pacific Police. Local Deputy Arnie Bravo conducted at least 5 traffic stops during the 2-hour session during the observation time. Motorists that were pulled over were issued warnings for crossing the tracks before the red lights had stopped blinking.