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Operation Lifesaver Reminds of Railroad Dangers

Operation Lifesaver logo"Look, Listen and Live" are the watchwords of Operation Lifesaver, a national, non-profit educational program dedicated to ending highway-rail grade crossing deaths and injuries. Railroad crossing safety is a matter of great importance in Downers Grove where there are six railroad grade crossings along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) line. Close to170 trains, including Metra's commuter service, traverse this three-track system each day.

The Downers Grove Police Department has three certified trainers who present the Operation Lifesaver railroad safety program to children in elementary schools throughout Downers Grove. In addition, material is provided to Safety Town classes, participants of police/village tours, and attendees at a variety of safety fairs and events.

If you are interested in scheduling a free Operation Lifesaver program for your community group, please contact Marion Heintz, Public Education Manager for the Downers Grove Police Department at (630) 434-5606 for details.


Railroad Safety Tips 

  • Always EXPECT that there will be a train and be prepared to stop.
  • Drivers and pedestrians must stop at crossings when warning lights are flashing and/or gates are down. Vehicles may not proceed to cross the tracks until the gates are completely up and the lights are no longer flashing.
  • Make sure there is proper clearance to cross over the tracks without stopping.  Never stop on the tracks!
  • If your car stalls on the tracks, immediately get out of the vehicle and far away from the track and call 9-1-1.
  • When standing on a train platform, keep back at least 15 feet or more from the track. The average train overhangs the track by at least three feet; wider loads can extend even further.

Did You Know?  

  • School buses and trucks carrying hazardous materials must stop at the railroad tracks, even when warning signals are not activated.
  • It takes a loaded freight train traveling at 55 mph takes at least a mile to stop, after fully applying the brakes. That's the length of 18 football fields!
  • The human eye cannot accurately judge a train's speed or distance. A train will always appear to be farther away and traveling slower than it is. Remember, the train always wins.
  • Most crashes occur within 25 miles from home.
  • Approximately every two hours either a vehicle or pedestrian is struck by a train in the United States.
  • A motorist is twenty times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a crash involving another vehicle.
  • Nearly 50 percent of the vehicle/train crashes occur at crossings that have active warning devices such as gates, lights, and bells.

 Illinois Laws

Illinois State law is very strict with respect to railroad crossings.  

  • No motorist or pedestrian can disobey any railroad signal at any crossing location. This includes when the motorist or pedestrian believes the signals may be malfunctioning. Suspected malfunctioning signals should be reported to police immediately so the railroad can be contacted to make the necessary repairs.  
  • No motorist is permitted to begin crossing the tracks in a vehicle unless there is adequate room on the other side of the track for their entire vehicle without obstructing the track.  
  • No vehicle can ever be stopped on the track - whether the signals are activated or not.

The fine for each of these three violations is $250.00 for a first conviction, and $500.00 for any subsequent convictions.


The law prohibits trespassing on railroad tracks. A person who is on railroad property without lawful authority or the railroad's consent is considered to be a trespasser. This includes crossing a railroad track at a location other than a designated highway-rail grade crossing with appropriate signaling devices in place that can alert the person of an approaching train. The leading cause of rail-related deaths in the United States involve incidents of railroad trespassing.

Persons caught trespassing will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for a first offense that can result in a fine up to $500.00 or imprisonment. Subsequent convictions constitute a Class A misdemeanor up to $1000.00 and/or imprisonment.