Here is a startling statistic for your Monday morning: Every three hours in the United States a person or vehicle is hit by a train.
While the number of highway-rail crossing crashes, deaths and injuries have dropped over the past five decades, the startling fact remains that about every three hours another train incident takes place somewhere in America. .
Saving lives by alerting pedestrians and drivers to the dangers of being inattentive at highway-rail grade crossings and along train tracks is the focus of a campaign by the rail safety education nonprofit Michigan Operation Lifesaver during national Rail Safety Week this week of September 22nd to the 28th.
Sam Crowl is Michigan Operation Lifesaver state coordinator, and he says that preliminary Federal Railroad Administration data for Michigan shows that in 2018 at least 44 vehicle/train crashes occurred at highway-rail grade crossings, resulting in 15 injuries. In addition, 12 pedestrians or trespassers were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks in Michigan last year. Crowl reminds, “All railroad property should be considered private and cannot be accessed without permission from the railroad.”
Public service announcements, billboard campaigns, and other activities are planned across the state. The U.S. Rail Safety Week is supported by the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Operation Lifesaver, Michigan Railroads Association, Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads, freight railroads, and other safety partners.
Tim Hoeffner is Rail Director for the Michigan Department of Transportation. He says, “The goal of Rail Safety Week is to raise awareness of the need for rail safety education and empower Michigan residents to keep themselves safe near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad property,” and adds, “We fully support Operation Lifesaver and Rail Safety Week’s goal: educating our citizens to automatically expect a train on any track or at any crossing, and to take appropriate precautions.”
Several proclamations and activities will take place across the state and the U.S. each day during Rail Safety Week, including:
Monday, Sept. 23rd
A media event will kick off the week at 11 am today at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway in East Lansing with representatives from railroad companies, MDOT and other state agencies, Michigan State University, and law enforcement. The first day of Rail Safety Week will focus on the message “Distracted Driving” and calling attention to the need for safety near tracks and trains. Educational handouts will be available before the event.
Tuesday, Sept. 24th
Tuesday’s focus will be on “Law Enforcement Partnerships” and will include the second annual observance of the “Operation Clear Track” initiative where local, state, federal, and railroad police will be stationed at railroad grade crossings and/or trespassing incident locations. They will hand out safety materials to motorists and pedestrians while enforcing crossing and trespass laws.
Wednesday, Sept. 25th
Wednesday’s focus will be on “Crossing Safety” with events to “Stop Track Tragedies” at railroad crossings with vehicles and pedestrians. Information will include the importance of the blue emergency notification signs and knowing what to do if you are stuck on the tracks. As part of the #WorkZoneWednesday campaign partnership to increase work zone safety awareness, MDOT will promote safety at railroad crossings under construction on social media.
Thursday, Sept. 26th
Known as “Transit Safety Thursday,” events will be held at transit and rail stations on how to stay safe as a passenger rail or transit rider.
Friday, Sept. 27th
Friday’s focus will be on “Trespass/Train Hopping Prevention” with events and information to promote “Red Out for Rail Safety” events at schools and in communities to stress the importance of trespass prevention.
Saturday, Sept. 28th
The final day of Rail Safety Week will cover “Trespass Prevention – Bike Safety” to highlight trespass dangers on foot or with bicycles.
Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and preventing trespassing on or near railroad tracks. A national network of trained volunteers gives free presentations on rail safety, provides the public with tips and statistics to encourage safe behavior near the tracks, and promotes a public awareness campaign: “See Tracks? Think Train!” Visit their website at www.oli.org to learn more about Rail Safety Week events, find materials, and learn how you can become part of the team.