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(a) (1) Except as provided in subsection (a)(2) hereof, the operator of any bus, any school vehicle, or any vehicle transporting material required to be placarded under 49 CFR Parts 100-185, before crossing at grade any track of a railroad, shall stop the vehicle, and, while so stopped, shall listen through an open door or open window and look in both directions along the track for any approaching train, and for signals indicating the approach of a train, and shall proceed only upon exercising due care after stopping, looking and listening as required by this section. Upon proceeding, the operator of such a vehicle shall cross only in a gear that will ensure there will be no necessity for changing gears while traversing the crossing and shall not shift gears while crossing the tracks.
(2) This section does not apply at grade crossings when the Ohio Public Utilities Commission has authorized and approved an exempt crossing as provided in this subsection.
A. Any local authority may file an application with the Commission requesting the approval of an exempt crossing. Upon receipt of such a request, the Commission shall authorize a limited period for the filing of comments by any party regarding the application and then shall conduct a public hearing in the community seeking the exempt crossing designation. The Commission shall provide appropriate prior public notice of the comment period and the public hearing. By registered mail, the Commission shall notify each railroad operating over the crossing of the comment period.
B. After considering any comments or other information received, the Commission may approve or reject the application. By order, the Commission may establish conditions for the exempt crossing designation, including compliance with division (b) of 49 C.F.R. Part 392.10, when applicable. An exempt crossing designation becomes effective only when appropriate signs giving notice of the exempt designation are erected at the crossing as ordered by the Commission and any other conditions ordered by the Commission are satisfied.
C. By order, the Commission may rescind any exempt crossing designation made under this section if the Commission finds that a condition at the exempt crossing has changed to such an extent that the continuation of the exempt crossing designation compromises public safety. The Commission may conduct a public hearing to investigate and determine whether to rescind the exempt crossing designation. If the Commission rescinds the designation, it shall order the removal of any exempt crossing signs and may make any other necessary order.
(3) As used in this section:
A. “School vehicle” means any vehicle used for the transportation of pupils to and from a school or school-related function if the vehicle is owned or operated by, or operated under contract with, a public or nonpublic school.
B. “Bus” means any vehicle originally designed by its manufacturer to transport sixteen or more passengers, including the driver, or carries sixteen or more passengers, including the driver.
C. “Exempt crossing” means a highway rail grade crossing authorized and approved by the Public Utilities Commission under subsection (a)(2) hereof at which vehicles may cross without making the stop otherwise required by this section.
(4) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection (a)(4), whoever violates subsection (a) hereof is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one or more violations of subsection (a) hereof or Ohio R.C. 4511.76, 4511.761, 4511.762, 4511.764, 4511.77 or 4511.79, or a municipal ordinance that is substantially similar to any of those sections, whoever violates subsection (a) hereof is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree.
(b) (1) When authorized stop signs are erected at railroad grade crossings, the operator of any vehicle shall stop within fifty but not less than fifteen feet from the nearest rail of the railroad tracks and shall exercise due care before proceeding across such grade crossing.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, whoever violates this subsection (b)(1) hereof is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.
If the offender commits the offense while distracted and the distracting activity is a contributing factor to the commission of the offense, the offender is subject to the additional fine established under Section 303.991 of the Traffic Code. (ORC 4511.61)