Rail Safety Week Initiatives Accelerate (UPDATED)Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
As Rail Safety Week (RSW) (Sept. 19-25), a collaborative effort among Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), state OLI programs and rail safety partners across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, continues to be observed, North American carriers and organizations are mobilizing to raise awareness about rail safety and to help stop track tragedies during this annual week-long event. Here is a roundup of the week’s initiatives.
CSX will join OLI to conduct the sixth annual RSW campaign to “educate and empower the public to make safe decisions around trains and railroad tracks.” The railroad says it will be partnering with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), other Class I railroads, Amtrak, commuter rail-service providers and law enforcement agencies to improve safety awareness around tracks and trains. Through public events, digital billboards and social media messages during the week of Sept. 19-25, CSX says it will work to reduce the number of grade crossing and trespass incidents in communities across its 26-state network.
“Every collision at a grade crossing and on the railroad tracks is preventable,” said CSX Chief of Police, Public Safety and Infrastructure Protection Sean Douris. “At CSX, our goal is zero incidents. RSW offers the opportunity for us to encourage motorists and pedestrians in communities along our network to remain alert around tracks and to take the necessary precautions to stay safe.”
According to national statistics, each year approximately 2,100 North Americans are killed or seriously injured when engaging in unsafe behavior around tracks and trains. In the U.S. alone, a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours.
Each day of this week-long collaborative effort will focus on a different safety theme, such as crossing safety and trespass prevention, CSX says. CSX police will engage in education and enforcement activities in several states where crossing collisions ranked highest in 2021.
To further increase awareness of this vital public safety initiative, this year CSX unveiled a new OLI rail safety commemorative locomotive, painted at the railroads locomotive shop in Huntington, W.Va. The CSXT 4568 engine will travel the company’s rail network as a visual reminder for the public to be safe at highway-rail grade crossings and near railroad tracks.
Operation Lifesaver Canada
Operation Lifesaver (OL) Canada on Sept. 19 unveiled four new #STOPTrackTragedies videos to mark the beginning of RSW and to remind Canadians that taking risks near tracks and trains could cost them a limb, or their life.
“Our goal with the 2022 #STOPTrackTragedies campaign is to show Canadians that making an unsafe decision around tracks and trains—whether it’s to train-hop, ignore railway signs and signals, or to send a text while driving—can tear lives apart: yours, those of your loved ones, and members of your community,” says OL Canada Sarah Mayes.
OL and its railway partners will be holding the following public outreach events across the country this week to promote the #STOPTrackTragedies campaign and rail safety:
- On Sept. 20, OL’s law enforcement partners will join the campaign by participating in Operation Clear Track—the “single largest rail-safety law-enforcement initiative in North America.” According to OL, hundreds of law enforcement personnel from across Canada will work to enforce rail crossing and trespassing laws and promote rail-safety messages in communities through pamphlets, press releases and social media posts.
- On Sept. 22, OL will unveil rail safety decals in municipalities from coast to coast, to remind pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to exercise caution and “Look. Listen. Live.” at rail crossings. Communities from B.C. to Nova Scotia have installed decals this year, bringing the total number of municipalities engaged in OL’s Community Safety Partnership Program to 80.
- OL has also launched two new Thomas & Friends™ books, published in partnership with Mattel Canada, Canadian Pacific (CP) and Metrolinx to “help reach young Canadians with the rail safety message.” OL is offering the books for free to parents, educators and community groups through its website, and will be hosting readings at select Toys ‘R Us stores across Canada on Sept. 25.
- Finally, OL will cap off RSW by announcing the winners of its 2021 Roger Cyr Award—an annual award typically given to a Rail Safety Ambassador who “demonstrates an exceptional commitment to promoting rail safety in Canada.” For the first time ever, this year, OL will also be recognizing a Canadian community with a Roger Cyr Award for its outstanding leadership in promoting rail crossing safety and anti-trespassing initiatives.
OL says Canadians are encouraged to support the 2022 RSW campaign by heeding these rail safety tips, by following OL Canada on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and by sharing OL’s rail safety messages with their loved ones using the hashtags #STOPTrackTragedies and #RSW2022.
CP, along with Canadian Pacific Police Service (CPPS), announced Sept. 19 that it will join OL Canada and OLI as they “lead the way to bring train-related injuries and fatalities to zero.”
During RSW, the railroad says CPPS officers will be in communities across CP’s network patrolling railway property and conducting rail safety presentations to educate the public on the dangers of unsafe behavior around trains and tracks.
“It’s important to support and recognize RSW because one person seriously injured or killed is one too many,” said Al Sauve, Chief of CP Police Service. “CP Police will participate in different activities across CP’s network to help educate the public on rail safety to stop these preventable incidents. We want everyone to always go home safe.”
CP says it will also support OL and OLI initiatives throughout the week by participating in Operation Clear Track in Canada and the U.S., promoting #STOPTrackTragedies and supporting the unveiling of rail safety decals that say “Look. Listen. Live.” at 19 railway crossings across CP’s network in Canada.
“OLI continues to be thankful for CP’s active engagement in RSW. Joining our counterparts in Canada and Mexico, partnerships are instrumental in sharing the rail safety message. Together, we can stop track tragedies,” said OLI Executive Director Rachel Maleh.
For RSW, BNSF Railway (BNSF) is encouraging the public to take the OLI Rail Safety Pledge, which reminds people to:
- Obey warning signs and always expect a train on railroad tracks.
- Stay off the tracks, including when taking photos or filming videos, and never walk on or close to tracks.
- Only walk, ride or drive across tracks at designated crossings.
- Share the rail safety message with friends and family.
BNSF says you can also promote rail safety by sharing rail safety messages on social media and include hashtags like #stayoffthetracks and #seetracksthinktrain.
BNSF also adds that its Railway Police will participate in the one-day initiative Operation Clear Track on Sept. 20.
Amtrak, in conjunction with California OLI, BNSF, Caltrans, the Fullerton Train Museum, the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, Metrolink, and the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society is hosting a Track Safety Community Event during RSW at the Fullerton Train Museum. The free rail safety event will offer local communities the opportunity to meet railroad workers, tour equipment and learn about the importance of rail safety.
The event details are as follows:
- What: Providing the local community an opportunity to walk-through train equipment and learn about rail safety, the Track Safety Community Event is designed to give the community, media, elected officials and stakeholders an inside look into efforts to enhance rail safety awareness, change dangerous behaviors on or near the track, and empower communities to make safe choices around railroad tracks and crossings.
- When: Saturday, September 24 from 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday, September 25 from 10 am to 3 pm
- Where: Fullerton Train Museum; 200 E. Santa Fe Ave, Fullerton, Calif.
Additionally, Stay Off the Tracks, a division of the Amtrak Police Department, will be joining law enforcement and other first responders across the U.S. today for Operation Clear Track.
“To save lives and keep communities safe, we continue to work closely on Operation Clear Track to emphasize the importance of obeying the law and the dangers of ignoring warnings at rail crossings,” said Amtrak Chief of Police D. Samuel Dotson.
To help communities stay safe near railroad tracks, Norfolk Southern (NS) is offering the following three tips:
- Always stop and look at rail crossings to be sure a train is not approaching
- Railroad tracks are never a safe place to walk, so keep a safe distance–and they are never a safe place to take pictures.
- Whenever you see tracks, think train–trains can be quieter than you expect.
“This RSW we are offering three ways our fellow community members can stay safe near railroad tracks,” said NS Assistant Vice President Safety and Environmental. “When you’re driving, be sure to look both ways; if you’re on foot, stay a safe distance from tracks; and always assume a train may be approaching anytime you’re near the rails.”
The U.S. freight rail network is made up of nearly 140,000 miles of track, traversing serene landscapes and busy cities. According to Union Pacific (UP), often, children, teens and adults can be found walking the tracks, cutting across them as a short cut and/or posing for photos, without knowing these three simple facts:
- Trains are at least three feet wider than the tracks on either side.
- Modern trains are quieter than people might think.
- Once a train starts to brake, it can take up to one mile for the train to come to a complete stop.
“National RSW is the perfect time for families to sit down and stress the importance of being alert and distraction free around railroad tracks,” said Connie Roseberry, UP Assistant Vice President and Chief Safety Officer. “There are a variety of tools available to help make these conversations fun and engaging and, most importantly, they can help save lives.”
In collaboration with Safe Kids Worldwide, a national key partner through UP’s Community Ties Giving Program, free, downloadable content is available for educators, parents and caregivers on the online Rail Safety Station. The hub, UP says, helps create parent and community advocates by providing fact sheets, lesson plans, activity sheets, videos and opportunities to share personal experiences.
To help create safe habits at an early age, the stars of Chuggington, an animated TV series following the adventures of three young train engines, Wilson, Koko and Brewster, deliver content highlighting three key rail safety messages to stay safe around trains and railroad tracks:
- Don’t walk along train tracks. Walking near or on tracks is against the law and trains can overhang tracks by at least three feet.
- Cross railroad tracks only at places marked by crossbuck lights or a gate. Look for lights at a gate and look both ways before you cross.
- Wait for the train to pass. When lights are flashing or the gates are down, wait for the train to pass. Even if you are in a hurry, do not try to beat the train by rushing across the tracks.
The Chuggington partnership, UP says, provides a variety of additional resources, including a rail safety PSA and a dedicated website, which features a customizable Rail Safety Pledge and a variety of downloadable activity sheets for parents, teachers and schools.
The Chuggington partnership also includes support from GoNoodle, a kids’ online hub that provides children in classrooms and at home an outlet for community wellness, physical health, mindfulness and much more. Through the partnership, downloadable activities and free resources will be provided on the importance of railroad safety in an engaging way for children to learn and have fun.
“Every five days a child is killed in a train collision but there are proven steps communities and parents can take to protect their children,” said Torine Creppy, President of Safe Kids Worldwide. “We’re thrilled to join Union Pacific and Chuggington during Rail Safety Week to raise awareness, provide lifesaving resources, and encourage all parents to talk to their kids about railroad safety and to model safe behavior themselves.”
In conjunction with RSW, Sound Transit kicked off a campaign on Sept. 19 to “educate and empower the public about the importance of safety around trains and tracks.”
“Safety is our number one priority at Sound Transit, which is why we are actively working hard to reduce incidents,” said Sound Transit Chief Safety Officer David Wright, in a news release. “RSW is an opportunity for us to make sure everyone knows the behaviors that will help them stay safe when they are near our trains and tracks.”
The goal of Sound Transit’s participation in RSW is to “highlight and promote the agency’s five core safety messages and align these messages with the overall theme of #STOPTrackTragedies,” the agency said. These five core messages are:
- Look both ways.
- Headphones off, screens down.
- Take crosswalks, not shortcuts.
- Stay behind the yellow line.
- Bike smart, ride safe.
During each day of RSW, Sound Transit says its social media channels will offer these messages and the various themes selected by OLI for nationwide promotion throughout the week. Sound Transit staff will also be out in service speaking with customers and re-enforcing these track and train safety messages.
Brightline high-speed rail and law enforcement from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are “stepping up their efforts to prevent accidents like the ones South Florida has seen time after time at train tracks,” NBC 6 reported.
According to the report, since 2018, Brightline trains had collided with cars or pedestrians 85 times, killing at least 28 people and injuring 30 others.
“It’s beyond my understanding and I’m sure everyone else here as to why someone would take that chance with their life,” said Col. Nichole Anderson from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. “We’ve become a microwave society where we want things quick and what happens is impatience gets the best of people and they think that they can beat the train.”
According to the NBC 6 report, Brightline said its “commitment to the success of the business is the same as the commitment to keep people on and off the trains safe.”
“Our Brightline teammates, many of whom are former law enforcement, will be out in the field with our law enforcement partners handing out educational information,” said Brightline President Patrick Goddard. “It’s about education. We’ll also be pushing out safety information through social media and public service announcements. In addition to that, we continue to advance the number of engineering efforts throughout the corridor to make the corridor safer.”
According to the NBC 6 report, Goddard said Brightline’s safety protocol is “above the national standard on safety.”
Florida Department of Transportation
Also in South Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has launched its “Be Rail Smart” campaign to raise rail crossing safety awareness, CBS12 reported.
According to FDOT officials, the campaign aims to educate and raise awareness about rail crossing safety throughout Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Broward counties, CBS12 reported.
The kick-off event was held Sept. 19 at the Brightline Fort Lauderdale Station where Brightline officials partnered with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department to announce their tri-county enforcement plan (see above).
Each law enforcement agency, CBS12 reported, will be stepping up enforcement along the corridor by educating and enforcing safety practices along the train tracks.
As part of the Be Rail Smart Campaign, CBS12 reported, FDOT will also be ramping up their outreach on social media, posting educational videos with the do’s and don’ts when crossing the train tracks, as well as addressing the importance of mental health and suicide prevention.
According to CBS12, the campaign will also include outreach (see below) and educational pop-up events held throughout the week in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.
Maryland Department of Transportation
Maryland is joining jurisdictions across the country and throughout North America in promoting safety at rail crossings during RSW. Through a safety and awareness campaign, Maryland OLI is joining OLI, OL Canada and the Mexican Association of Railroads in urging the public to help #STOPTrackTragedies.
In Maryland each year, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) says, on average 23 people are killed or injured in grade crossing and trespassing incidents, according to data from the FRA.
As part of RSW, video and audio public service announcements and social media posts will promote a message of safety and awareness. The campaign focuses on the following themes:
- Monday, September 19, kicks off the week with the theme of #STOPTrackTragedies, and urges people to take the Operation Lifesaver Rail Safety Pledge.
- Tuesday, September 20, focuses on the annual observance of Operation Clear Track in the U.S. and Canada emphasizing the importance of obeying crossing safety and anti-trespass laws.
- Wednesday, September 21, highlights Crossing Safety, with outreach and guidance for new and mature drivers, shift workers, school bus drivers, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Thursday, September 22, Transit Safety Thursday, showcases how to stay safe as a rail commuter or transit rider.
- Friday, September 23, focuses on Volunteering for Operation Lifesaver along with Wearing Red or “Red Out” for Rail Safety by encouraging safety organizations, partners, schools, railroads and the public to wear red at public events and share photos on social media.
- Saturday, September 24, highlights Trespass Prevention, educating pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, college students, people experiencing homelessness and outdoor enthusiasts about the dangers of being on or near the tracks.
- Sunday, September 25, promotes No Photo, Video or Selfie is Worth the Risk, to warn professional and amateur photographers and social media influencers against putting themselves or others in danger by illegally taking photos, videos or filming near tracks and trains.
During the week the MDOT will share social media messages on its twitter.com/mdotnews and facebook.com/MDOTNews/ platforms.
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is partnering with organizations across the Denver metro region and beyond in observance of RSW.
RTD is participating in recognition of the importance of preventing rail-related accidents in partnership with Denver Transit Operators (DTO), the operator of the A, B and G lines and OLI.
RTD and DTO Safety departments and RTD Transit Police will collaborate as part of Operation Clear Track, which aims to reduce the approximately 2,000 serious injuries and deaths each year in the U.S. around railroad tracks and trains. RTD staff will be at various locations along commuter rail lines, to speak with pedestrians and motorists about the need for safety near trains.
“Unsafe decisions can lead to severe or fatal consequences which are preventable,” said Senior Manager of Safety, Security and Compliance Martha J. Bembry. “This affects those taking the risk and our train operators who are committed to the safety of others. We want to remind everyone traveling near our rail system to remain alert, avoid distractions and know what to do when a train is approaching.”
RTD and DTO will be conducting outreach at the following locations during Rail Safety Week:
- A Line: Sept. 20, 7-9 a.m. – Peoria Station; Sept. 22, 7-9 a.m. – 40th•Colorado Station
- G Line: Sept. 22, 7-9 a.m. – Olde Town Arvada Station
- N Line: Sept. 20, 7-9 a.m. – At-grade rail crossing located east of 100th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard
- Denver Union Station: Sept. 25, 4-6 p.m. – Commuter rail platform area