Washington, D.C. (September 25, 2017) – Saving lives by alerting people to the dangers of being inattentive at highway-rail grade crossings and along train tracks is the focus of a new campaign by national rail safety education nonprofit Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) during the first U.S. Rail Safety Week (RSW), September 24-30. Radio and digital public service advertising campaigns and other activities are underway in states across the country. Rail Safety Week is supported by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), state Operation Lifesaver programs, Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), freight railroads, and other safety partners.
Participating in a press conference to kick off the week’s activities were Operation Lifesaver, Inc. President and CEO Bonnie Murphy, Federal Railroad Administration Office of Program Delivery Director Jamie Rennert, , Association of American Railroads Senior Vice President Safety & Operations Mike Rush, Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek, Amtrak Chief of Police Neil Trugman, Nancy Kenyon Richardson, who lost her son in a trespass incident, and Richardson’s 12-year-old daughter Kiki.
“While the number of highway-rail crossing collisions, deaths and injuries has 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 Murphy. “The goal of RSW is to raise awareness across the United States of the need for rail safety education and empower Americans to keep themselves safe near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights-of-way.”
FRA’s Rennert said, “For decades, the Federal Railroad Administration has striven to develop and successfully apply a wide range of safety engineering, enforcement and educational initiatives to prevent highway-rail grade crossing collisions and trespass events—which together, comprise nearly 96% of all rail-related deaths. The people involved in these tragic incidents are our neighbors, our friends, our family members. Let’s make the most of this week and work together to raise awareness of the importance of safety around tracks and railway crossings within our communities.”
“For the freight rail industry, there is no higher priority than safety,” said the AAR’s Rush. “While federal data shows that grade crossing fatalities have been trending downward, there are still far too many fatalities that occur in and around crossings.”
Said Naparstek, “U.S. Rail Safety Week is important so that our customers understand the need for safety around tracks and grade crossings. Crossing collisions and trespass incidents are preventable tragedies that can be avoided by empowering people to keep themselves safe.”
Chief Trugman announced, “Amtrak and our safety partners will conduct ‘Operation Clear Track’ tomorrow, with more than 230 sheriff’s departments and police agencies stationed at top railroad grade crossing and trespassing incident locations across the lower 48 states to enforce the laws and educate the public about train safety. By mobilizing our forces, we hope to raise awareness, save lives and prevent injuries along the railroad rights-of-way from coast to coast.”
Nancy Kenyon Richardson said “My son Kevin was just 24 when he was hit by a train and killed while taking a short cut on the tracks near our home. I hope I can help fix the lack of awareness of the danger of being on train tracks by sharing his story with you. The lesson here certainly did not come cheaply. Kevin paid with his life, and my family and I have paid with our hearts.
Kiki Richardson added, “The last time I ever saw Kevin was when he was in his coffin. I never expected my brother would be gone all because of a short cut.”
Preliminary FRA data show 1,104 people were killed or injured in vehicle-train collisions in 2016, a 13.7 percent drop from 2015. Trespass-related casualties rose in 2016; 980 pedestrians were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks last year, up 12.9 percent from 2015.
Activities will take place across the country each day during U.S. Rail Safety Week, including:
Tuesday, September 26 will feature “Operation Clear Track,” where local, state, federal and railroad police will be stationed at the top railroad grade crossing and/or trespassing incident locations in states around the country to hand out safety materials to motorists and pedestrians, and issue warnings and citations to those violating state laws.
Wednesday, September 27 will focus on crossing safety, with events and ads to promote awareness of the Emergency Notification System (ENS) signs posted near all railroad crossings. The signs have an 800-number to call to report vehicles stuck on the tracks, signal malfunctions or other issues.
Thursday, September 28, will be “Transit Safety Thursday,” with events at transit, light rail and commuter rail stations and a digital ad campaign.
Friday, September 29, will focus on trespass prevention, with Operation Lifesaver urging students, employees, and others to participate in “red out for rail safety awareness” by wearing red. Operation Lifesaver volunteers will be at sporting events and other activities to distribute materials and trespass prevention safety tips.
Saturday, September 30 will celebrate “community connections,” with safety blitzes and other awareness events in communities across the U.S.
U.S. Rail Safety Week is funded by Champion sponsors FRA, FHWA, FTA and Amtrak (in-kind); Partners sponsor Dupage Railroad Safety Council; and Allies sponsor National Safety Council.
Visit the Operation Lifesaver website at www.oli.org/RSWeek to learn more about Rail Safety Week events, find materials, and learn how you can become part of the Rail Safety Week team.