This father’s heart-wrenching story reminds you why rail safety is important

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Train commuters and drivers near rail crossings have probably noticed an added police presence near the tracks this week.

About 275 agencies have been out across the state promoting train safety for the first Illinois Rail Safety Week

Twenty years later, flowers still sit at the crossing in hinsdale where 14-year-old Lauren Wilson lost her life.

"She made the world smile every time she walked by,” Lauren's dad Lanny said.

Lanny says his son was driving lauren to a performance she was in, and in a hurry, he went around the gates. A Metra train smashed their jeep into a tree.

"I just begged to God to not take her life, and when I arrived, I realized her soul had already left her body and we had the tough job of turning off the machines,” he said.

Thankfully, Lauren’s brother lived, but the Wilsons' lives changed forever.

It’s a tragedy that agencies across the state are working hard to prevent.

In Park Ridge on Thursday, police officers and Union Pacific workers joined forces to get the message out.

Last year, Illinois ranked 3rd in the nation for having the most railroad crossing fatalities -- 46 in all.

Officers say most people have been receptive to hearing the safety information but others just brush them off, complaining they don't want to miss their train downtown. Officials say those are the people they want to reach -- an hour of their time could save many people their lives, they say.

And Lanny Wilson knows that all too well. He has spent the last 20 years making sure other families don’t feel his pain. Immediately after Lauren’s death, he helped form the DuPage Railroad Safety Council.

“Every time I see an improvement, help make an improvement, I do it with Lauren right by my side," Lanny said.

They’ve helped increase fines at crossings and added video cameras at crossings.

But not every incident at the tracks is an accident. Groups are trying to prevent suicides at the tracks as well.

A couple of the ideas at recent railway conferences involve new technology and the possibility of drones flying in front of trains.

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