Cars seen driving through railroad stop arms in downtown Richmond

Cars seen driving through railroad stop arms in downtown Richmond

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Police and railroad companies are reminding drivers not to drive through or under stop arms after a video captured just that.

Just after 9 a.m. Thursday, more than 10 cars were seen driving through the stop arms at the 14th Street and E. Byrd Street railroad crossing near the Mayo Bridge.

Norfolk Southern, which operates the train tracks, is aware of the situation.

“Oh my god, that’s so dangerous," said Alexia Brown.

NBC12 showed Brown the video showing cars driving through the stop arms despite the train stopped on the tracks, still slightly in the road. The situation frustrates her, especially after she lost two friends to a train-versus-pedestrian accident in 2018.

“People who do that honestly do not need a license because that’s a very hazardous position to be in,” she said.

“Somebody is either going to get hit or someone is going to die,” added William Dickerson.

Thursday morning’s train was partially stopped on the tracks, but according to Norfolk Southern details on why were unknown.

The train remained there for several minutes which is when more than 10 cars decided to drive through the stop arms.

Cars driving through stop arms in Richmond

“They do that many times,” said Percy Powell. “So I don’t know if they need more crossing gates or what but something needs to happen before something serious happens."

“As far as surveillance cameras, yes,” Brown said. “I personally think they need one at every crossing.”

Another railroad company said cameras are typically not installed at railroad crossings.

However, Richmond Police mentioned they are aware of situations like this and will ticket someone for breaking the law if they see it happen; recently they haven’t issued any though.

“When those gates come down they come down for a reason,” Brown said. “That means to stop because if a train comes you don’t know how fast it’s coming or how slow it’s coming.”

“We can definitely prevent it, but us being stubborn we don’t typically listen,” Dickerson said. “We definitely have to do better.”

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were two reports filed at this crossing in the 1980s for cars stopped on the tracks. No injuries were reported.

Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a non-profit focused on railroad crossing safety, said the force of a 30-car freight train hitting a car is like a car hitting an aluminum soda can.

“Disregarding warning devices, and driving around activated crossing gates, can have deadly consequences," said Jessica Puchala, director of Communications and Marketing for Operation Lifesaver, Inc. "It’s also illegal. To report problems at a railroad crossing, call the emergency number listed on the blue and white Emergency Notification System sign posted near the crossing signal.”

Preliminary statistics by the FRA show 2,105 train vs car collisions in 2017.

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