In an ongoing effort to make the state’s rail crossings safer, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has increased the points assigned to drivers found guilty of violating the rules governing such crossings from three points to five, officials said.
State Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) said in a statement that the point change comes as officials across the state continue to respond to the Metro-North train crash that claimed six lives and injured many more in Valhalla just over two years ago.
Buchwald said that increasing the penalty for breaking laws at New York’s 2,700 rail crossings demonstrates the truly serious nature of the crime.
“If you are knowingly reckless at railroad crossings, you are putting yourself, those around you and those in the train at risk for a catastrophe,” Buchwald said. “The New York State DMV deserves great credit for increasing the punishment for railroad crossing infractions to better reflect the danger that law-breaking drivers can create.”
While many in state government learned about the point change this week, Buchwald said that Theresa Egan, the DMV’s executive deputy commissioner, said the change was actually put into place in August.
The change is the latest across the state to come in the wake of the Feb. 3, 2015 crash on the Metro-North tracks.
Last year, Buchwald championed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that implements joint inspections of signals at railroad crossings, aligns state requirements with federal regulations on railroad bridge inspections, increases penalties on railroad companies that do not comply with the regulations and increases penalties for drivers found guilty of repeatedly breaking laws at the crossings, according to a statement from the legislator’s office.
Buchwald said that the latest statewide change is another step in the right direction.
“While there is no one action that will prevent all future crashes involving motor vehicles and trains at railroad crossings,” Buchwald’s statement said, “it is believed that having a higher assessed point value for such violations, coupled with improved signage at crossings alerting motorists to the increased penalties, will serve as a significant reminder to drivers of the need to be extra cautious when approaching railroad tracks.”
Buchwald represents Assembly District 93, which includes Bedford, Harrison, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge and White Plains. Four of the six victims of the 2015 crash hailed from the district.