Local police stepped up enforcement near railroad crossings Thursday as part of a special operation to promote safety.

Officers from the Killeen and Harker Heights police departments met with representatives from the BNSF Railway Company for an “officer on a train” event, which began around 8 a.m. and lasted until noon.

During that time, officers from both departments manned railroad crossings from Fort Hood Street in Killeen to Farm-to-Market 3219 in Harker Heights, looking to issue citations to drivers and pedestrians who disregard railroad warning signals.

Texas law requires motorists to stop no closer than 15 feet or farther than 50 feet from the nearest rail when a signal or gate warns of the approach of a train. Motorists also must stop if the warning barriers are being lowered, or are being opened. Citations can cost between $50 and $200, according to the Texas penal code. The laws are put in place to keep drivers and pedestrians safe. There have been few serious accidents at crossings in the area, according to Brand Webb, a BNSF police officer for the Temple Territory.

“It’s been several years since we’ve had something like that in our territory,” Webb told the police officers during a briefing Thursday morning.

According to data from the nonprofit Operation Lifesaver organization, Texas had 20 railroad crossing fatalities in 2013, down from 34 in 2012.

Killeen has had its share of those fatalities. In 2013, a 58-year-old woman was struck and killed while walking on the railroad tracks near 10th Street. In November 2012, two Fort Hood soldiers were killed after a train struck their vehicle where Gilmer Avenue intersects with railroad tracks in north Killeen.

Thursday’s event was held in anticipation of International Level Crossing Awareness Day, which takes place June 3.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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