California

California Leads Nation in Trespassing Injuries and Deaths

"God forbid there is a collision that hits one of these propane tanks and creates a fireball"

railroad crossing sign
NBC 5 News

California leads the nation in trespassing injuries and deaths.

As part of rail safety month, sheriff deputies and railroad police are cracking down on violators.

The NBC4 I-Team found it comes at a time when collisions at railroad crossings in Los Angeles County have spiked.

Since 2011, there have been two fatalities at this crossing at Doran Street and San Fernando Road, a dangerous intersection because of the lay of the land, according to Metrolink officials.

There's the 134 Freeway, an industrial area with big trucks coming through, and some blind turn spots for drivers, as well as shadows possibly affecting the visibility for train engineers.

Drivers and people detained for walking the railway were among the moments NBC4 captured alongside LA County Sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement during a special crackdown on those violating rail safety rules.

"God forbid there is a collision that hits one of these propane tanks and creates a fireball," said Ara Najarian, a Glendale City Councilman and Metrolink second vice chairman.

There are plans to create two over crossings there so that cars and trains aren't on the same plane.

A temporary fix to close off the entrance on Doran to prevent drivers getting stuck on the track is also a ways away.

This heavily-traveled crossing in Glendale is near a propane gas business.

"It's a recipe for disaster," Najarian said. "We are doing everything we can. The problem is those sort of infrastructure improvements take tens of millions of dollars to implement."

Meanwhile, the number of collisions at crossings across five main counties in Southern California has increased.

Between 2015 to 2016 collisions nearly doubled, going from 22 to 41, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

California ranks number one in fatalities for all trespass and grade crossings.

Education and enforcement is the priority, officials said.

Paul Renteria lost a friend decades ago who was working on the tracks.

"From that day forward I have always preached railroad safety," said the California Public Utilities Commission bridge inspector.

He said he is now the first railroad bridge inspector for the state of California.

"Every accident is a result of a rules violation," Renteria said. "In other words you can run a stop sign a thousand times. It's not a crime until you are caught. It's not an accident until you hit somebody."

Trains can take a third of a mile to stop. The arms are designed to break away. The Sheriff's Department will continue to do enforcement checks across the area at least once a month until the end of the year.

Contact Us