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 (OLI) during the national Rail Safety Week (RSW), Sept. 24-29.
“While the number of highway-rail crossing crashes, deaths, and injuries have 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,” said Sam Crowl, Michigan OLI state coordinator.
Public service announcements, billboard campaigns, and other activities are planned across the state. The U.S. RSW is supported by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Michigan OLI, Michigan Railroads Association (MRA), Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), freight railroads, and other safety partners.
Preliminary FRA data for Michigan show that in 2017 54 crashes occurred at highway-rail grade crossings resulting in five deaths and 18 injuries. In addition, 16 pedestrians or trespassers were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks in Michigan last year. All railroad property should be considered private and cannot be accessed without permission from the railroad.
“The goal of RSW 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,” said Tim Hoeffner, MDOT Office of Rail director. “We fully support OLI and RSW’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 each day during RSW, including:
Monday, Sept. 24
The first day of RSW will focus on the message “No Photos/videos on Train Tracks” regarding the risks of illegally taking photos, videos, or filming on or near railroad tracks. Railroads, MDOT, other state officials, local law enforcement, and university police also will kick off RSW at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway in East Lansing. Educational handouts will begin at 8 a.m. with the “See Tracks? Think Train!” media event starting at 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 25
Tuesday’s focus will be on “Law Enforcement Partnerships” and will include the second annual observance of the “Operation Clear Tracks” 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. A listing of Operation Clear Tracks participants and locations and be found here.
Wednesday, Sept. 26
Wednesday’s focus will be on “Trespass Prevention” with events to educate pedestrians about the dangers posed by trespassing on tracks and trains, and how to stay safe.
Thursday, Sept. 27
Known as “Transit Safety Thursday,” events will be held at transit, light rail, and commuter rail stations on how to stay safe as a rail commuter or transit rider.
Friday, Sept. 28
Friday’s focus will be on “Crossing Safety” with events and information aimed at new drivers, including “Red Out for Rail Safety” events at schools and in communities.
Saturday, Sept. 29
The final day of RSW will include celebrating “Community Connections” with safety blitzes, sidewalk chalk events, and other awareness events in communities across the U.S.
About Operation Lifesaver
Operation Lifesaver (OLI) 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 the OLI website at www.oli.org to learn more about RSW events, find materials, and learn how you can become part of the team.