The Illinois Legislature this week sent a bill to Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk that would increase penalties for drivers who try to cross railroad tracks after signals are activated and crossing gates are down.
The legislation doubles the fines from $250 to $500 for a first offense and from $500 to $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense, according to a press release issued by Metra.
Last year, Illinois ranked second in the nation for highway-rail fatalities. Nearly 25 percent of vehicle-train collisions occur at crossings with active warning devices, according to Illinois Operation Lifesaver.
If Rauner signs the bill, the state will have some of the strictest penalties in the nation for trying to drive through rail-crossing warning signals and gates.
"These incidents are entirely avoidable," said bill sponsor State Rep. Michael Tryon (R-66th District). "With the second largest rail system in the nation, we must do all we can to help discourage and prevent injuries and fatalities on railroad tracks."
The bill was initiated by Metra this spring as part of a larger effort to promote rail safety and awareness.
"Our message is simple: When the gates are down, stay off the tracks or you will pay the price through these increased fines or worse," said Metra Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno.