Safety concerns raised after 5 Manitobans die in collisions at railway crossings in 5 weeks

Manitoba drivers are being reminded to be extra cautious when crossing rail lines after five people died in crashes with trains in the last five weeks.

The latest was a driver who was killed Friday night after their SUV collided with a train at a rail crossing just north of the Trans-Canada Highway, about 40 kilometres west of Portage la Prairie, Man.

The SUV was heading southbound on Highway 34 and drove through the crossing arm, crashing into the train, RCMP say. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

Last week, three men were killed after the van they were in collided with a train in western Manitoba about one kilometre east of Strathclair, Man. The van with four people inside was travelling north when it was hit by a westbound CP train.

And last month, a man was killed after a train crashed into an SUV west of Portage la Prairie.

“It’s always concerning when you have any loss of life impacted in such a way,” said Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre.

RCMP say it’s too early to say whether there’s been an uptick in fatal crashes with trains in Manitoba, but Manaigre thinks it should be a wake-up call to drivers.

“It’s not a race you’re going to win if that’s what people are attempting to do,” he said. “Or it could be a time of day or visibility issue. We’re always trying to determine exactly what’s causing these collisions.”

Manaigre said investigators are still trying to determine if impaired driving or medical issues were also factors in the crash Friday night.

“The main message is paying attention when you’re behind the wheel,” Manaigre said.

“You need to pay attention to your surroundings when it comes to railroads and the crossings, if you’re approaching. Is there a stop sign? Are there gates?”

The warning comes as CN Rail launches its annual safety campaign on Monday.

Rail Safety Week runs in Canada and the U.S. from Sept. 21-27 this year. CN Rail says the aim is to create more awareness surrounding safety at railway crossings. 

Meanwhile, the federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau tweeted about the safety campaign on Friday. He says Transport Canada is joining forces with Operation Lifesaver again this year to help stop track tragedies and increase awareness about the dangers surrounding rail property and trains.

Manitoba Public Insurance spokesperson Brian Smiley said last year there are, on average, five collisions involving trains and other vehicles in Manitoba per year, and 10 per cent of those crashes involve a fatality.

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