Governor signs Tryon legislation to increase safety at railroad crossings

Motorists who attempt to cross railroad tracks while the gate is down or lights are flashing will see fines doubled under legislation signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles) and in the House by State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), SB 2806 seeks to deter those who ignore the signals and cross tracks while oncoming trains approach. “Illinois ranked second in the nation last year with regard to rail crossing fatalities, and it is my hope that these new, steeper fines will make motorists think twice before making the foolish decision to cross railroad tracks when it is unsafe to do so,” said McConnaughay. “It was a pleasure to work with Metra on this life-saving legislation.”

Through the provisions of SB 2806, fines will be doubled to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses of failing to stop at least 15 feet from the closest rail when an electric or mechanical signal device is activated or a crossing gate has been lowered, or when an approaching train is plainly visible.

“Drivers need to take the warning signals seriously when it comes to train tracks,” said Tryon. “The number of deaths and injuries sustained at railroad crossings is alarmingly high in Illinois, so doubling the penalties for infractions should help reduce injuries and fatalities.”

According to Metra, which worked with McConnaughay and Tryon on the legislation, in 2015 motorists who ignored rail road crossing signals and gates were involved in 140 rail crossing collisions which resulted in 24 fatalities and 79 injuries. Illinois currently has the second-largest rail system in the nation, with more than 7,300 miles of railroad track and 10,363 public highway crossings.

SB 2806 does not increase fines for pedestrians crossing the track when signals and gates are activated. However, Metra officials have pledged to work with lawmakers on future legislation that addresses that problem.