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The importance of stopping at railroad crossings

When you drive up to a railroad crossing, are you ever tempted to beat the train and just zip through the flashing lights?

You might be surprised by how many people do just that. We saw it firsthand when we recently jumped aboard a train passing through Birmingham, Alabama.

Looking over the engineer's shoulder, we could see exactly what's happening at those railroad crossings.

We worked with Bryan Schaffer with the BNSF Railway Police. We watched from the train as a pickup truck ignored the flashing lights and drove through the crossing. And Bryan was right there to give him a ticket.

"When the lights start flashing, that means stop. If it's safe to proceed you can, but you must stop first," Schaffer said.

And once the gate starts to come down, the law requires you to stop. Technically the road is closed until that gate goes back up.

Why so much fuss? Well, it's simple: A train can't stop as fast as you can.

"An average freight train weighs 12 million pounds [going 55 miles an hour]. They're going to need over a mile to stop," Nancy Hudson with Operation Lifesaver said.

Operation Lifesaver is all about getting you to be a smart driver, to stop at those crossings and be safe.

"It's just not worth getting hurt over. It really isn't," Shaffer said.

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