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Fines for ignoring railroad crossing gates double Jan. 1

Five people were injured when a Metra train struck a vehicle on Dec. 28, 2015, near 87th and Pulaski in suburban Hometown. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

Metra officials are reminding motorists that fines for driving over railroad tracks while crossing gates are down will double Jan. 1.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law in July that increased the penalty for disregarding activated gates and warning lights from $250 to $500 the first time. It doubles to $1,000 each time after that.

Officials at suburban Chicago’s commuter rail service say Illinois ranked second in the nation in 2015 for highway and rail fatalities. Operation Lifesaver reports up to 80 percent of train and car collisions occur at crossings with warning devices operating.

Republican state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, of St. Charles, and Crystal Lake GOP Rep. Mike Tryon sponsored the measure. They believe the risk of steeper fines will make motorists think twice before trying to race a train.