Turning when train hits Crosstown not always a good idea

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A good rule of thumb is when you see a train coming, stop.
However, motorists don’t necessarily follow that rule, especially at Crosstown in Tupelo.
Trains at the intersection of Gloster and Main streets have a reputation for being extremely long and are often the targets of motorist frustrations.
Sharon Mitchell travels up and down Gloster and Main every day and said she is stopped by the train at least five times a day. So when she is in a lane where she can turn while the train is crossing, she takes the opportunity.
“Trains in this town are ridiculous,” said Mitchell while waiting at Crosstown for one to pass. “They run all day and all night and they hold up traffic, so, yes, sometimes I’ll turn if I’m in a place where I can turn.”
She may not see it as dangerous, but police see is as illegal.
Tupelo Police Maj. Jackie Clayton said continuing to drive once the red railroad crossing lights come on is illegal. Also, it’s illegal to make the left on to Main Street while you’re on Gloster and the train is going by.
Turning right at the intersection is OK for each street.
Clayton said he’s seen vehicles turn while the train was coming on several occasions and has even written citations for it. Clayton said it’s just like running a red light.
“You are supposed to stop when the train is coming across and that’s a rule everyone should follow,” said Clayton. “Not only is it the law, it is just the safe thing to do. You should never move that close to a train while it’s moving. Something very bad could happen.”
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad operates the tracks that run through Crosstown. BNSF Director of Public Affairs Joe Faust said the flashing lights, dinging bells and loud sirens are put in place for a reason.
“Unfortunately we do get people who for whatever reason don’t want to wait and try to beat the train or turn while it’s passing and it’s just not a good idea,” said Faust. “People should obey traffic rules because they are put in place to keep motorists safe. No one wants an accident at the railroad crossing.”
A train traveling 50 mph takes about a mile to come to a complete stop. Engineers are just as terrified of hitting a motorist as a motorist is of getting hit by a train.
“The engineers and people on the trains are just a traumatized as the motorists when a car is hit by a train,” said Faust. “When they see a car hit and people are inside of it, they have a hard time dealing with it.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com.