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Beginning Jan. 1, Illinois will double the penalties for drivers who disobey crossing gate warning systems.The fine will jump from $250 to $500 for a first offense, and from $500 to $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense, according to a Metra press release.Metra pushed for the new law as part of a larger initiative aimed at promoting rail safety awareness and decreasing preventable injuries. The Illinois Legislature in May approved the bill.Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in July signed into law the amendment to the state's vehicle code.Illinois ranked second in the nation for highway-rail fatalities in 2015, Metra officials said, adding that the state now will have some of the strictest penalties in the United States for those offenses. Illinois also has the second-largest rail system of any state with more than 7,300 miles of track and more than 10,000 public crossings.Seventy-five percent to 80 percent of vehicle/train collisions occur at crossings with active warning devices, according to Illinois Operation Lifesaver."The message is simple: when the gates are activated, 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."In addition to the tragic injuries or loss of life that can result when a vehicle is struck by a train, collisions at railroad crossings can impact thousands of Metra customers, who can be delayed for hours waiting for first responders to clear the accident scene, and delay other motorists who are forced to find alternate routes," he added.
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