OLI Awards $220K for Rail Safety Campaigns

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh, has awarded $220,000 in competitive rail safety awareness grants to Operation Lifesaver programs in 11 states. FRA provided $175,000 of the total funding.

The grants will go toward crossing safety and trespass prevention public-education projects, which will also be conducted in conjunction with OLI’s observance of See Tracks? Think Train!® Week, to be held Sept. 23-29, 2024. (Rail Safety Week in the U.S. was recently renamed and rebranded as See Tracks? Think Train!® Week or ST3Week for short.)

The FRA-funded grants will be awarded to Operation Lifesaver organizations in nine states:

  1. California Operation Lifesaver will run a Geofencing and digital trespass awareness ad campaign during September—CA Rail Safety Month and See Tracks? Think Train!® Week—to reach at-risk populations in the state’s top 15 counties for trespass and near-miss incidents.
  2. Connecticut Operation Lifesaver will run a rail safety education messaging project, using streaming video, website display ads, social media, and podcasts targeting high rail-traffic areas. It will start in August and conclude at the end of September, following See Tracks? Think Train!® Week.
  3. Illinois Operation Lifesaver will run a grade crossing safety and trespass prevention education campaign from July through September. It will include TV commercials, streaming videos, and digital display ads, as well as community events and in-person training sessions targeting law enforcement, emergency dispatchers, schools, and professional drivers in the Chicagoland, Springfield, and East St. Louis areas.
  4. Indiana Operation Lifesaver will run a project targeting pedestrians and motorists in the Hammond, Ind., area through digital audio, video, social, and Geofencing ads, as well as the distribution of rail safety education messaging materials on college campuses and community events in August and September, including See Tracks? Think Train!® Week. Artificial intelligence will be used to maximize campaign performance and attract social media influencers, expanding reach for the project’s rail safety education message. 
  5. Montana Operation Lifesaver will create a trespassing safety Public Service Announcement (PSA) featuring Native American individuals with culturally relevant elements, representation, and storytelling to improve awareness and discourage trespassing on railroad property. PSAs will be sent to broadcast outlets throughout the state and used in display, print, and YouTube ad campaigns.
  6. New York Operation Lifesaver will target audiences in Long Island, combining a rail safety education banner towed by an airplane over the beaches during the summer with a Geofence online campaign during September. The campaign will include a series of crossing safety education events during See Tracks? Think Train!® Week.
  7. Ohio Operation Lifesaver will conduct a high-impact rail safety education campaign from July through September targeting the Cleveland metro area across radio, connected TV and on high-traffic local TV websites, featuring endorsements from local sports celebrity Jensen Lewis.
  8. Tennessee Operation Lifesaver will run a rail safety education ad campaign targeting males aged 18-40 with audio, video, social media and Geofencing ads in major metro areas during August and September.
  9. Washington Operation Lifesaver will run a four-month campaign encompassing digital advertising geo-targeting areas of the state with the highest trespassing incidents, a Spanish PSA television campaign targeting bilingual residents in key counties, and a social media PSA campaign for the period to include See Tracks? Think Train!® Week.

Funding from the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh will supplement the Connecticut grant project (see above), and go toward OLI grant projects in two states:

  1. Missouri Operation Lifesaver will run a radio and digital ad campaign targeting drivers and agricultural road users statewide from May through September, with an additional campaign in seven counties that account for 70% of railroad-crossing incidents across the state.
  2. South Carolina Operation Lifesaver will partner with community-area transportation in the city of Charleston to target transit riders, pedestrians, and motorists with an ad campaign that will run for a quarter of the year, in conjunction with in-person events and safety-materials distribution communicating rail education.

“FRA wholeheartedly supports the lifesaving work of OLI as grade crossing and trespass incidents still occur with alarming frequency,” said James Payne, Staff Director of the FRA Grade Crossing and Trespasser Outreach Division. “These competitive grants provide critical funding to OLI state organizations whose efforts effectively combat the problem of preventable railway deaths and injuries.”

“While railroads are a safe industry with a deep safety culture, raising public awareness of the importance of grade crossing safety and trespass prevention remains a critical challenge,” Henry Posner III, Chairman of the Posner Foundation and Iowa Interstate Railroad, added. “OLI’s mission of rail safety education across the nation directly addresses these. We are proud to be for the sixth year in a row not just a funder but an enthusiastic supporter of OLI.”

“We are delighted to announce the recipients of this year’s grants, which showcase innovative strategies in promoting rail safety education,” OLI Executive Director Rachel Maleh said. “Congratulations to the winning states for their dedication and creativity in spreading this crucial message. We are deeply appreciative of our enduring collaborations with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh, whose support makes these outreach initiatives possible nationwide.”

In a related development, Kentucky drivers have another way to show their commitment to railroad safety: through the purchase of a specialty license plate featuring OLI. This is the first railroad safety-specific license plate in the U.S.

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