Column on See Tracks? Think Train! campaign to raise awareness about rail safety.

National Train Day: See Tracks? Think Train!
Senator Pat Browne (R-16)

Although most Americans today know the dangers associated with distracted driving or texting while driving or crossing the street, many are unaware of the risks they are taking around railroad tracks.

Recent federal data reveal an alarming increase in the number of pedestrian deaths on tracks and fatal collisions at railroad crossings. According to 2013 U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, 908 pedestrians were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks in 2013, up 7.7 percent from 843 in 2012. Additionally, 1,193 people were injured or killed at railroad grade crossings, up 1.5 percent from 1,175 in 2012. Estimates indicate that a train strikes a vehicle or person approximately once every three hours in the United States.

Here in Pennsylvania, there have been 135 deaths and injuries since 2011 as a result of trespassing on rail tracks – the fourth highest number in the nation. And each trespassing tragedy can be prevented if each of us will act safely around rail tracks.

Often pedestrians and drivers simply do not realize how dangerous it is to walk on railroad tracks or how long it takes the average freight train to stop. For example, a train may extend three feet beyond the steel rails, and many times pedestrians do not realize they are standing too close. Additionally, it can take a mile or more for a fully loaded train to stop – the length of 18 football fields. By the time an engineer sees a person on the tracks and applies the emergency brakes, it’s too late.

Saturday, May 10, is National Train Day – a day set aside to recognize the advantages of rail travel and transport across the country. One of these advantages is the tremendous safety record enjoyed by our railroads. America’s freight railroads continue to invest record levels of their dollars into their privately owned rail networks and nearly all of these investments enhance rail safety. Because of their commitment to safety, American freight railroads are working hand-in-hand with Operation Lifesaver to help reduce the number of trespassing injuries and fatalities. Railroads are constantly incorporating new technologies to improve rail safety – including sophisticated detectors along tracks that identify defects on passing rail cars; ground-penetrating radar that identifies problems below ground, and specialized rail cars that identify defects in tracks.

I proudly support the new national See Tracks? Think Train! campaign to raise awareness about rail safety. Please join me in helping share this important message from Operation Lifesaver and the railroads. We can save lives by encouraging others to obey traffic signals and reminding them that railroad tracks are no place to walk or play. Remember: “See Tracks? Think Train!”  

Contact:          Matt Moyer    (610) 366-2327