Car collisions at train crossings fell over 25% in 2016, but injuries and deaths involving trains were up.
According to the nonprofit rail safety education organization, Oklahoma Operation Lifesaver, that’s because of pedestrians trespassing on the tracks.
Nationally, vehicle-train collisions at highway-rail grade crossings fell 2.4 percent in 2016; however, the number of people killed in crossing incidents rose 13.7 percent last year. Deaths in 2016 from train track trespassing increased 12.8 percent, and trespass injuries jumped 16.4 percent; total trespass-related casualties (deaths plus injuries) increased 14.5 percent from 2015 levels.
Overall, Oklahoma crossing collisions were down 26.3 percent in 2016 from 2015: to 28. Crossing fatalities rose from 1 in 2015 to 8 in 2016, and crossing injuries dropped from 17 to 11. Trespass fatalities dropped 42.9 percent in 2016 to 4, and trespass injuries rose from 5 to 9 in 2016.
“This year, Oklahoma will participate in U.S. Rail Safety Week, September 24-30,” Oklahoma Operation Lifesaver, Executive Director, Sherry Soliz said. We look forward to working with our safety partners to raise awareness among Oklahoma residents of the need to always use caution near crossings and refrain from trespassing on the tracks.” she concluded.
Operation Life Saver has several tips to keep you safe while walking near the tracks:
- Freight trains don't travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.
- All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it's illegal trespass and highly dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks it's too late. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile—the length of 18 football fields—to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
- The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car. We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
- Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.
- A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.
- Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
- Today's trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale "clackety-clack." Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster, than you think.
- Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.