The State Patrol says there’s been an increase in distracted driving on the open roadways and the DOT says it’s become an issue at train crossings as well. Kris Klop oversees the installation of warning devices at rail crossings for the DOT and says accidents started changing around the time of the COVID pandemic.
Klop says racing to beat a train through a crossing is a conscious decision, but it’s hard to see how someone can just drive through gates into a train.
Klop says there’s a yearly program to assess rail crossings and the need for warning devices or upgrades, but that doesn’t mean anything if the driver isn’t paying attention.
Klop says the number of accidents at crossings in Iowa has dropped from 300 a year in 1987 down to about 15 a year more recently.
Klop says Iowa has just under 5,000 railroad crossings with 2,264 that are passive and have no signals. There are 1,128 crossings with gates, 702 with just flashing lights, and 742 where the railroad track goes over or under a bridge. He says any crossing where a car has to drive over the track has some sort of advanced warning for drivers.
Klop says they have 15 to 18 rail signal projects during a typical year, and one to three cases each year where they close a crossing.