ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) - After numerous incidents on the tracks, the Town of Ashland is implementing initiatives to improve safety at rail crossings.
There are 2.34 miles of parallel rails cutting through Ashland, with 60-80 trains passing through each day.
Due to recent alarming incidents at the Ashcake Road crossing and England Street crossing this month, the Ashland Police Department completed a detailed analysis of reported incidents involving motor vehicles and railroad tracks, dating back to 2007.
In that time, the APD responded to 18 incidents on the railroad tracks involving a motor vehicle, but it is noted even more incidents are not officially reported because the car is able to get off the tracks before there is an issue.
Businesses in that area believe it happens at least once a month.
To combat the problem, and to make the area safer, the Town of Ashland is now working to install small, high-visibility reflective pavement markers along the edge of the roadway to better delineate the travel lines.
It is also working with various navigation apps and aides to include a warning when using GPS directions that advises drivers of the proximity of the railroad tracks.
The town is also exploring the possibility of additional lighting to illuminate the grade crossing, especially at the England Street crossing, which is where 50 percent of the incidents occurred.
APD also found that 78 percent of the incidents occurred during times of darkness, and 67 percent involved the consumption of alcohol as a contributing factor.
"Anecdotal evidence would indicate that the distraction of smart phones, whether texting and driving or reliance on GPS directions may be to blame for the recent uptick in the past few years," stated the Ashland Police Department, pointing out that 2016 saw the highest number of incidents since 2007.
Over the last few years, town leaders and the police department have taken steps to increase safety.
- In 2011, enhance roadway striping was added to the England Street grade crossing to better delineate the travel lanes for motor vehicle traffic
- In 2013, LED street lamps were installed along Railroad Avenue, improving lighting in the area
- In 2015, APD and Hanover Fire-EMS coordinated a multi-day training exercise centered around emergencies on the rails
APD also points out, "since the fall of 2016, the Town has been in discussions with CSX, federal rail officials and state representatives regarding improved signage leading up to grade crossings and other enhancements."
Safety tips can be found on the Operation Lifesaver website.
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