Don’t ‘beat the train’: Officers will patrol railroad crossings to curb deaths

South Florida law enforcement agencies, partnering with Brightline, will be stepping up their efforts to prevent drivers from recklessly trying to beat the high-speed trains — the latest effort to try to curb the mounting number of railroad accidents and deaths.

On Monday, Brightline announced that sheriff’s offices in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties will be be increasing their enforcement by the train tracks and gate crossings as part of National Rail Safety Week.

At least 60 people have been killed in pedestrian and traffic accidents involving Brightline trains since they began operating in Florida five years ago. The high-speed trains have reportedly had the worst per-mile fatality rate in the country. Brightline hasn’t been found to have violated any rules in any of its crashes, the Federal Railroad Administration said earlier this year.

RELATED: Broward police agencies dole out 500+ citations in less than two weeks of railroad crossing enforcement ]

On Monday, a pedestrian ran on to the train tracks in Hollywood and was killed after being struck by a Brightline train, WSVN-Ch. 7 reported.

In the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours, causing 2,100 injuries or deaths, according to Operate Lifesaver, a public safety education and awareness organization.

“We’re very hopeful and optimistic these ongoing efforts are going to help continue to educate people on the importance of staying safe around crossings and railroad tracks,” Brightline President Patrick Goddard said.

As part of National Rail Safety Week, South Florida law enforcement officers will be increasing their presence along the Brightline corridor and issuing violations, including motorists who illegally cross through tracks or attempt to drive around closed gates.

Patrick Goddard, President of Brightline, speaks during a news conference at the Fort Lauderdale station, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022 as law enforcement officers from the three counties Brightline serves look on. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) (Joe Cavaretta/AP)

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In June, Brightline and law enforcement agencies in Broward conducted “Operation Crossing Guard” to increase public awareness about safety hazards along the rail line and to reduce the number of deaths at rail crossings.

During the 11-day program, more than 500 citations were issued: 157 for stopping on railroad tracks, 146 for driving around closed gates, 122 for stopping too close to closed gates, 90 for blocking intersections and 25 for pedestrians walking around closed gates. The citations were delivered in Broward sheriff’s districts in Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Oakland Park and Dania Beach.

Broward Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Nichole Anderson said Monday that enforcement efforts such as these are critical with many drivers continuing to ignore safety precautions around the tracks.

RELATED: Two die in separate Palm Beach County train crashes, raising week’s total to four deaths ]

“It’s beyond my understanding, and I’m sure everyone else here, as to why someone would take that chance with their life,” Anderson said. “We’ve become a microwave society where we want things quick and what happens is impatience gets the best of people and they think that they can beat the train.”

Brightline trains travel at speeds up to 79 mph and officials say it can take a train at that speed more than a quarter-mile to stop.

In addition to the increased patrols this week, Goddard also cited additional engineering initiatives, including safety improvements at 48 gate crossings from Miami to West Palm Beach.

Brightline has active stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Stations in Orlando, Aventura, Boca Raton and Port Miami are under construction. The Orlando station, which will add hundreds of more miles in railroad tracks, is expected to open next year and will transport riders from Miami to Orlando in approximately three hours.

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