A new law pushed by two McHenry County lawmakers doubles the fines for drivers who disregard railroad crossing lights – provided, that is, that they manage to beat the train.
Senate Bill 2806, signed Thursday by Gov. Bruce Rauner, doubles the fine to $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. State law requires motorists to stop no closer than 15 feet to railroad tracks when the warning lights or lowered gate signal that a train is coming.
State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, filed the bill in the Senate, and state Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, carried it through the House. Metra worked with both lawmakers to get the bill moved through the General Assembly.
“Illinois ranked second in the nation last year with regard to rail crossing fatalities, and it is my hope that these new, steeper fines will make motorists think twice before making the foolish decision to cross railroad tracks when it is unsafe to do so,” McConnaughay said in a statement.
Twenty-four people died and 79 more were injured last year in Illinois because of motorists ignoring railroad crossing signals, according to Federal Railroad Administration data. Illinois has more than 10,000 rail crossings, and is second only to Texas in the number of track miles, thanks to Chicago’s status as the primary railroad hub in the United States.
The new law does not increase fines for pedestrians who ignore the warnings.