Rail Safety Week Under Way: Sept. 18-24 (Updated Sept. 21)

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Operational Lifesaver Inc. (OLI), Operation Lifesaver Canada, and the Mexican Association of Railroads (AMF) is leading Rail Safety Week 2023 across North America on Sept. 18-24.

The event, held annually since 2017, concentrates public attention on the need for rail safety education. Federal Railroad Administration statistics show that every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train; approximately 2,100 North Americans are injured or killed each year in these preventable incidents, according to OLI. Also in the U.S., trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths, and railroad crossing incidents are the second leading cause of rail-related deaths, the nonprofit group reported.

Rail Safety Week 2023 in the U.S. is emphasizing a different theme each day and featuring in-person events led by state Operation Lifesaver programs as well as virtual activities and social media efforts.

Following are the daily themes:

Sept. 18 kicked off the week with the overarching theme of #STOPTrackTragedies and a focus on media outreach and Rail Safety Week proclamations in states and localities. OLI said it will release two new #STOPTrackTragedies video public service announcements (PSAs).

Nancy Sheehan-McCulloch (Executive Director of California Operation Lifesaver), Rob Padgette (Managing Director of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority) and Amtrak Police Captain Doug Calcagno at Oakland Jack London Station. (Caption and Photograph Courtesy of Amtrak)
Billboard for Operation Lifesaver in Pascagoula, Miss. (Caption and Photograph Courtesy of Amtrak)

Sept. 19 focused 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. Law enforcement partners will conduct awareness exercises, Officer on the Train activities and other in-person “positive enforcement” events as well as join first responders sharing Rail Safety Week messages through social media, email messaging and website posts, according to OLI. Across the U.S., 149 total organizations in 27 states signed up to participate either in person or virtually. “We cannot say this enough; trespassing on train tracks is not only dangerous but is illegal in all 50 states,” Amtrak Chief of Police D. Samuel Dotson said. “Through Operation Clear Track, we can help drivers and pedestrians understand that every time someone trespasses on the tracks, it can lead to devastating results, impacting someone’s life, their family and the community.”

Law enforcement officer meeting with the public in Chicago Union Station. (Caption and Photograph Courtesy of Amtrak)

Sept. 20 highlighted crossing safety, with outreach to the general public—including new and mature drivers, shift workers, school bus drivers and farmers as well as outdoor enthusiasts—highlighting the importance of the Blue and White Emergency Notification System (ENS) signs at crossings.

California Operation Lifesaver Representatives and Oakland Law Enforcement. (Caption and Photograph Courtesy of Amtrak)

Sept. 21, “Transit Safety Thursday and Professional Driver Safety,” showcased how to stay safe as a rail commuter or transit rider as well as safe choices around railroad tracks and trains for professional drivers. Transit riders will be encouraged to take and share OLI’s new transit safety pledge. Engaging new transit safety educational materials for Pre-K through age 12 children were released on this date, including an animated PSA in 7560 and 30-second versions; coloring book; and activity book. OLI’s “See Tracks? Think Train!®” mascot, known as ST3, comes to life in the PSA and teaches a diverse group of young riders how to make safe choices on transit platforms as well as when riding trains, OLI reported. The coloring book for the youngest riders and activity book for older kids also feature ST3.

Sept. 22 will focus on volunteering along with wearing red—“Red Out” for Rail Safety—encouraging partner safety organizations, schools, railroad employees and the general public to wear red and share photos on social media.

Sept. 23 will highlight trespass prevention, educating pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, college students, people experiencing homelessness, and outdoor enthusiasts about the dangers posed by being on or near the tracks. 

Sept. 24 will promote “No Photo, Video or Selfie is Work the Risk” to warn professional and amateur photographers as well as social media influencers against putting themselves or others in danger by illegally taking photos or videos, or filming near tracks and trains. 

“You can help #STOPTrackTragedies by knowing the facts, making good decisions, taking the Rail Safety Pledge and sharing rail safety messages,” OLI reported.  

In related developments, OLI recently released Choose Safety First, a new PSA aimed at municipal workers, utility workers and others whose jobs bring them near railroad tracks and crossings, and The Risk Is Real PSA to illustrate the consequences of unsafe choices around railroad tracks and crossings.

Mobile, Ala., Police Department and Alabama State Troopers prepare for deployment. (Caption and Photograph Courtesy of Amtrak)
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