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Search: Search Mn/DOT issues safety reminder after crashes at rail crossings

The Minnesota Department of Transportation issued a safety alert to remind drivers to use caution at highway/rail grade crossings. The advisory was issued after reports of three crashes at rail crossings in the past two weeks. "In the past ten years, there has been a significant decrease in the number of crashes at railroad/highway crossings in Minnesota. We hope to continue that trend in 2002," said Al Vogel, Mn/DOT's Director of the Office of Freight, Railways and Waterways. "Most crashes are the result of human error and can be prevented if drivers exercise caution," he added. Three people have been killed and four others injured in train/vehicle crashes this month in Minnesota. The crashes occurred on July 16 on Highway 169 in Brooklyn Park; July 14 near Highway 10, north of Rice and July 3 on Highway 115, north of Little Falls. "Drivers should be aware that because of their size, approaching trains appear to be traveling at a slower speed," said Vogel. "Drivers should also know that it takes a fully loaded freight train traveling at 50 miles per hour up to one and a half miles to come to a full stop. By the time the train engineer sees a vehicle or pedestrian on the tracks, it is often too late to react safely." Vogel said drivers should be aware of the following: o Lowered gates indicates that a road is closed and that vehicles are prohibited from crossing. o 65 percent of train/vehicle crashes in Minnesota occur at crossings with passive warning signs, so drivers need to be especially alert at these crossings. o Trains have the right-of-way at highway/rail crossings - all vehicles are required by law to yield. The number of crashes at Minnesota's rail crossings has declined from 144 in 1994 to 73 in 2001. So far this year, 25 crashes have been reported at Minnesota rail crossings. "The trend on fatalities for 2002 is worrisome," said Vogel. "Last year five people died in crashes at rail crossings. We've already surpassed that number this year - eight lives have been lost. By issuing this safety alert, we hope to help prevent further injury, death and property damage," Vogel added. For more information on highway/railroad grade crossing safety, visit the Operation Lifesaver, Inc. Web site at .