While the number of crossing collisions, deaths and injuries has dropped over the past five decades, it’s still a startling fact that about every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train.
There are countless reasons to never walk, run or play on rail tracks and rail property. Most people don’t know it can take more than a mile to stop a train — the equivalent of about 18 football fields. That makes it difficult if not impossible for a train to stop if someone is on the tracks. Trains are also deceptively quiet. Even when standing on a rail platform it is unlikely a commuter will hear one approach, especially if wearing headphones. Pedestrians are not the only ones who need to be careful, drivers also need to play it safe behind the wheel at rail crossings. The force of a train hitting a car is equivalent to that of a car hitting a soda can.
We Can All #StopTrackTragedies
95% of rail-related deaths involve drivers going through grade crossings or a person on the tracks — and with safe driver and pedestrian behavior, most of these are preventable. This isn’t just another statistic number; it represents our friends, our family, our neighbors and our community members. We all have a role to play in preventing these accidents and everyone has a responsibility to be safe around railroad tracks. That’s why railroads dedicate significant time and energy reaching out to communities, with rail safety education at the heart of this effort. From providing lesson plans and educational toolkits to teachers and conducting on-campus visits for college students to meeting with community leaders and law enforcement, railroad employees are active in the neighborhoods where they work and live, sharing their rail safety knowledge.
Railroads also support Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI), a non-profit public safety education and awareness organization that has helped eliminate risky behavior around rail tracks and crossings since 1972. OLI reaches millions of people each year through safety presentations, training sessions, social media and special events held nationwide. OLI maintains a host of online safety tools available for parents, photographers, bus drivers, new drivers, bikers and the list goes on. OLI, together with freight, passenger, commuter railroads and federal safety agencies, launched the “See Tracks? Think Train!” public safety campaign and in 2017, OLI inaugurated National Rail Safety Week.
Railroads and their safety partners are becoming increasingly creative in making sure their safety messages are seen and heard. To attract the attention of young sports enthusiasts, OLI in Canada recently launched a virtual reality video campaign specifically geared to ATV riders who frequently ride near snow-covered railroad lines. Thanks to efforts like these, collisions and incidents involving pedestrians, vehicles and trains have declined in recent years. Railroads will continue their many efforts to promote safe behavior around rail tracks and crossings to reduce these incidents, but they cannot do it alone; we all have a role to play.
Five Safety Tips to Remember
- Use Your Senses: Look and listen for trains as you approach any railroad crossing — obey all signs, warning lights and gates.
- You Lose: Trains are quieter and faster than you think — and the force of a train hitting a car is equivalent to a car hitting a soda can. Never try to beat a train.
- 18 Football Fields: Because of their size and weight, it can take a mile or more to stop a train. That’s the length of 18 football fields.
- Any Track, Any Direction: Always expect a train on any track, in any direction; avoid distractions when you approach a crossing.
- No Trespassing: Rail property is private property. Walking on the tracks is illegal and dangerous.