CHICAGO (CBS) — More people die when being struck by trains in Illinois than in all but two other states. Police across the state of Illinois hope to change that this week as Illinois observes a “Rail Safety Week” for the first time.
The Illinois Department of Transportation reported that in 2013, 21 people died when driving in front of trains, and another 25 died when struck on foot. 67 were injured.
“If you see tracks, think train,” said Park Ridge Police Deputy Chief Lou Jogmen, who said that all too often, those hit are in a hurry and are struck while cutting across tracks between crossings or ducking under or driving around gates.
“Unfortunately we have seen our fair share of those instances in which a train’s either stopped in a depot or a crossing and folks assume that, because that train is stopped, there isn’t another one coming and very often there is,” he said.
One teen who died, though, was playing a dangerous game of chicken. Jogmen said in Maple Park, near Rockford, a teen tried to get as close as he could to the tracks when a train thundered by. The vacuum surrounding the train sucked him in and the teen was killed.
Jogmen said the practice is known as “breezing,” and said others have been injured.
More than 300 police departments statewide are taking part this week along with a handful of other agencies, including the U.S. Navy.
Jogmen said police officers will hand out educational flyers at busy crossings and near train stations this week, along with citations carrying fines of up to $500 for those who disobey.