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Metro-North Train Operators Running Red Lights At Alarming Rate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- They are at the helm on your everyday train – engineers who are supposed to be guiding trains to safety.

But as CBS 2's Jessica Schneider reported Wednesday night, disturbing statistics have shown the people you entrust might be breaking the rules. Data from the Metro-North Railroad reveals that some engineers are running the red lights at which they are supposed to be stopping -- and potentially putting passengers' lives at risk.

"If you're in a locomotive cab, you really have to train your eye on the task," said Robert "Buzz" Paaswell, of the University Transportation Research Center.

In all, Metro-North drivers have racked up 24 violations since 2010, including five already this year.

Two-thirds of the violations are happening on the miles of tracks at Grand Central Station.

Commuters were not exactly comforted by the news.

"We have rules in place to keep people safe, and it seems like we should try to abide by those," said Eve Russell of the West Village. "I know accidents happen, but hopefully, they're doing their best to avoid that."

Metro North officials acknowledge that the violations are a big problem. A spokeswoman for the railroad told CBS 2 the agency is constantly working to improve safety.

Since 2008, Metro-North has changed recruitment techniques, rewritten training manuals, and made physical changes to the track infrastructure so as to make the red lights easier to see.

But problems have persisted.

Julio Rojas said the Metro-North train blew the red light at his Yonkers station just the other day.

"The Metro-North train was just coming so quick down the track that it just blew our stop -- like half the train, like three-fourths of the train," Rojas said.

"You have to learn a lot of things, and you learn by experience," Paaswell said.

And it may be experience that these drivers are lacking. Most of the blown red lights last year were from engineers with less than five years of experience.

"Occasionally, a driver will just not be paying attention, or there might be a signal malfunction, or a switch might not be thrown correctly," Paaswell said.

All of the above are oversights that riders said they want fixed.

Officials with the Federal Railroad Administration will meet with Metro-North officials next month to come up with a plan to stop the red-light violations.

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