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Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
12:17 AM Tue, Dec. 11th

Vehicles stuck on tracks could be expensive loss <BR>

As tempting as it is to cross train tracks to avoid a long wait or a drive around to the nearest railroad crossing, the results could be devastating if not fatal.

At best, a driver could lose their valuable car and have to pay restitution to the railroad; at worst lives could be lost.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad estimates that an incident like what happened Wednesday night when an unoccupied pickup truck became stuck on the tracks could cost thousand of dollars, Kingman police Lt.

Dean Brice said.

Drivers, especially with a four-wheel drive vehicle, may think they can make the jump across the tracks.

An accident like the one onWednesday night could cost the driver from $2,000 to $4,000 in restitution to the railroad, Brice said.

That cost would include damage to the train's engine, any damage to signal lights at crossings or to the tracks themselves.

Down time by freight trains that have to wait for track repairs are also included in the cost, Brice said.

"Time is money to the railroad," he said.

If a railroad employee is injured or killed that cost would skyrocket.

The railroad could also file felony charges such as criminal damage or trespassing against the driver, he said.

Rick Chambers, state railroad safety inspector for the Arizona Corporation Commission, said it is illegal to cross train tracks anywhere except at marked railroad crossings.

Since all railroad tracks are private property, even walking across the tracks is illegal.

Chambers said he has seen a rise in trespassing fatalities throughout the state.

Because of its population growth, Arizona is one of the few states where traffic/train accidents are on the increase.

"The main problem is there is a lack of education what a train can or can't do," Chambers said.

A freight train with 100 cars traveling 55 mph takes a mile or more to stop.

A passenger train traveling about 80 mph also takes about a mile to stop.

More people die in vehicle versus train accidents than commercial airline crashes in an average year, railroad data shows.

The major problems are in Phoenix where motorists try to drive around railroad crossings or get stuck at red lights on or near a track.

But Mohave County is also seeing a rise of railroad incidents.

In May 2001, a 15-year-old Kingman boy was struck and killed by a train as he was walking across the railroad tracks downtown.

In 2000, Mohave County saw one injury accident between a vehicle and a train.

In 1998, there was a non-injury accident.

A fatality occurred in 1991 when one person was killed by a train, data shows.

In 2001, six people died in accidents throughout Arizona, four of those were in cars at public crossings.