Fines are set to double Sunday for motorists driving over Metra tracks after crossing gates are lowered and warning lights are flashed.
In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code increasing fines for drivers who disregard warnings from $250 to $500 for a first offense and from $500 to $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
“The message is simple: when the gates are activated, stay off the tracks or you will pay the price through these increased fines or worse,” Don Orseno, Metra’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Illinois ranked second in the nation in 2015 for highway-rail fatalities. The state will now have some of the strictest penalties for such offenses. Roughly 75 to 80 percent of vehicle/train collisions take place at crossings with active lights, gates and bells, according to Illinois Operation Lifesaver.
“In addition to the tragic injuries or loss of life that can result when a vehicle is struck by a train, collisions at railroad crossings can impact thousands of Metra customers, who can be delayed for hours waiting for first responders to clear the accident scene,” Orseno added. “Also, let’s not forget the trauma experienced by locomotive engineers and conductors when these incidents occur and work together to prevent accidents and injuries along the railroad.”
Illinois has the second-largest rail system in the country, with over 7,300 miles of track and 10,363 public highway-rail crossings.