Dumb and Dangerous Driving - November 16, 2006

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Drivers are stopping on busy train tracks, risking a deadly collision.

Trains blow their whistles about 15 seconds before they cross a road. It takes drivers three seconds to process danger and react, a few more if several people in a row are stopped. Add in a little more time if your music is up at tracks with no gate...and you could be cutting it dangerously close.

Thousands of tons don't stop for traffic...but Augusta driver Thom Steele says getting out of the way can be tricky because the tracks crossing Mike Padgett Highway are bumpy and in bad shape.

"It tears up your front end and your tires," he says. "Even 18 wheelers are coming to a stop."

Problem tracks cause drivers to slow up...but we saw one driver with no excuse. The tracks at River Watch Parkway are fine, but a gasoline truck stopped and blocked the entire track. That's a danger James Allen stops short to avoid.

"You don't want to get ran over by a train, that's for sure!" he says.

The situation gets even more dangerous at crossings that don't have gates, because there's nothing to keep drivers off the tracks when a train is on the way.

"A lot of close accidents here, since I've been here," says driver Lonnie Rowland.

It goes beyond close calls. There have been 30 crashes in our area in the past three years at crossings like this, and 800 across Georgia and South Carolina.

70 of the crashes across the two states were deadly.

That's why drivers like Thom are asking for safe tracks...and driving to avoid a hundred thousand ton crash.

To get railroad crossing gates, a county traffic official must first contact the DOT in Atlanta. If the DOT decides there's enough traffic at that crossing, the area could get brand new gates.

As far as repairing run-down tracks like those at Mike Padgett, each railroad crossing should have a 1-800 number posted on the gates. We called that number to report the Mike Padgett tracks, and you can do the same for ones in your area.