Local law enforcement agencies join to educate the public on railroad safety
“Ding, ding, ding,” bells are ringing, red lights are flashing, and you can hear a horn blowing in the distance. In a hurry, you decide to drive around the arm that has come down blocking the road crossing the railroad tracks. In doing so, you not only put yourself and countless others in danger, but you also run the risk of getting hit with a high dollar traffic violation ticket. Law enforcement officers are cracking down on the number of people who decide to ignore rail crossing guard arms, driving into harm’s way.
The Tribune was recently invited to take a ride and observe a train safety program presentation by Operation Livesaver. The day was a collaboration between In collaboration with Union Pacific Police, the Maud Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office.
Operation Livesaver is a non-profit international public education program that was established to help end collisions, death and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad rights-of-way. Federal, state and local government agencies, highway safety organizations, law enforcement, the nation’s railroads and their suppliers all support this program in hopes of keeping the public informed about up-to-date train safety.
Taking the important ride for the Tribune was Sandy Tutt.
During the ride Tutt observed several drivers who decided they could not wait for the train to pass before driving around the lowered gate and flashing lights. Some close enough to have caused serious damage or injury had they gotten stuck on the track or delayed for even a matter of seconds.
In order to keep accidents to a minimum, drivers need to make sure they are obeying all laws and using common safety knowledge when dealing with trains and railroad crossings.
There are many signs, markings, and lights that warn drivers of the coming train(s) or railroad crossings; advance warning signs, pavement markings, crossbuck signs, warning signs and devices, as well as gates and flashing red lights all have their purpose when it comes to the safety of both train riders and roadway drivers. Whether it be a sign warning of an upcoming train crossing, or a gate closing to warn of an oncoming train, drivers and pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings and obey any signage that may be posted.
Operation Livesaver offers many tips for staying safe around tracks and trains. Looking both ways and expecting a train in either direction can ensure a person will not be caught off guard. Leaving at least 15 feet between your vehicle and the track will keep you safe since trains tend to overhang the tracks by at least three feet on either side. If you do cross and your vehicle suffers problems resulting in being stuck on the track, get yourself and everyone out of the vehicle, stay clear, and call local law enforcement.
Remember that many vehicles, such as school buses, commercial buses, and trucks carrying hazardous materials, are required to stop at every highway-rail grade crossing.
Citations for improper crossing of a railroad track vary by state and county, but if issued, drivers can expect to receive tickets costing hundreds of dollars.
Many drivers are tempted to drive around gates when they are in a hurry, even though the train could be seconds away. Video footage taken by Tutt during her ride along showed several cars going around the crossbar while the train was just seconds away from the crossing.
Trains travel at speeds averaging 55 miles per hour, taking more than a mile or more to completely stop.
According to Operation Lifesaver, it takes “18 football fields (for a train to stop). If the locomotive engineer can see you, it’s too late to stop the train.”
The preliminary statistics show that in 2017, there were 2105 train/vehicle collisions, which resulted in 274 fatalities and 807 injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at U.S. DOT, “Three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of a motorist’s home. Fifty percent of all crashes occur within five miles of home.”
A calculation of NHTSA statistics on the rate of deaths per collision in vehicle/vehicle crashes versus the FRA statistics of deaths per collision in vehicle/train crashes reveals, “A motorist is almost 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle.”
If any issues are noticed at a crossing such as damaged signage, a stalled vehicle, obstructed view, or any other problems, persons can notify either local law enforcement or the emergency notification number. This number can be found posted on or near the railroad crossing.
Those interested in more information on railroad safety or on how to volunteer in sharing Operation Lifesaver’s safety message, can visit their website at www.oli.org.
The Tribune’s Sandy Tutt said, “It was really cool to ride on the train and it was an amazing experience. Too many people don’t realize how dangerous it is to cross illegally.”