Several years ago, the city of Independence rebuilt the busy intersection at 35th Street and Noland Road. Along with that work came new crossing guards at the close-by Union Pacific Railroad crossing, including raised brick medians approaching the crossing.

Several years ago, the city of Independence rebuilt the busy intersection at 35th Street and Noland Road. Along with that work came new crossing guards at the close-by Union Pacific Railroad crossing, including raised brick medians approaching the crossing.

That’s not about aesthetics. That’s about safety. The medians effectively prevent drivers from going around lowered, flashing, clanging crossing guards – formerly a common sight.

That might be the busiest street to cross one of the many rail lines in the city. The other dozens of crossings in the city – except along a lightly used Union Pacific spur line – have flashing lights and arms that drop to stop vehicles.

But that’s not always enough. Early Sunday morning, as police describe it, a driver went around the arms of a flashing, clanging signal at Pleasant Street and South Avenue. The Ford Escort was struck by a freight train and dragged hundreds of feet. One of the three people in the car, 25-year-old Coli C. Lafferty of Independence, was killed, and the other two were badly injured.

Safety was the stated reason for rebuilding that very intersection a few years ago. South is no longer a through street, an inconvenience for local traffic but presumably a gain in safety. Pleasant jogs a little, but sight lines are decent, and there’s no way to miss the visible and audible warnings of an oncoming train.

There is always some grumbling when the police and railroad conduct crossing checkpoints – but they always net dozens in violators in just a few hours. Maybe a few people get the message. Is the prospect of waiting a minute or two – maybe five – really worth the danger of darting in front of thousands of tons of moving train?

It would be hugely expensive – unrealistically so – to rebuild every rail crossing like the one on 35th Street. Drivers have to be depended upon to pay attention and heed the warnings around them. Dozens of trains pass through this community every day. Lives are at risk when drivers take chances.