ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Local View: Operation Lifesaver offers simple ways to avoid getting hit by a train

Here's a startling fact: About every two hours in the United States, a vehicle or person is struck by a train. If you can picture a car running over a can of soda, you have an idea of the impact when a train and a motor vehicle collide and the fr...

Here's a startling fact: About every two hours in the United States, a vehicle or person is struck by a train. If you can picture a car running over a can of soda, you have an idea of the impact when a train and a motor vehicle collide and the frightening prospect of what might happen to the car's passengers.

Next week, safety leaders from Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin will meet in Duluth to find ways to help prevent these tragedies from happening. These safety leaders are part of a group called Operation Lifesaver, and they are passionate about their work.

Consider this: The five upper Midwest states account for about 18 percent of the deaths that result each year in the U.S. from vehicle-train collisions and more than 10 percent of incidents involving pedestrians and trains. Last year in Minnesota, there were 82 crossing collisions resulting in 12 deaths and 17 injuries, with pedestrian rail trespass incidents accounting for an additional six deaths and six injuries.

Operation Lifesaver's safety experts warn drivers to "look, listen and live" at crossings. They tell pedestrians to "stay off, stay away, and stay alive" if they're thinking about walking near train tracks.

Their network of volunteers makes free presentations to school groups, law enforcement officers, emergency response personnel, truck drivers, school bus drivers and others, in Minnesota and across the country. Safety tips for drivers and pedestrians are available at Operation Lifesaver's Web site, www.oli.org .

ADVERTISEMENT

In Minnesota, Operation Lifesaver state coordinator Erin Petersen works to train new safety presenters to go into schools and workplaces and to talk with kids and adults about the very real dangers that exist at grade crossings and along train tracks.

As a part of next week's meetings, Operation Lifesaver is holding a training session for Duluth-area emergency response personnel. The session will provide them with critical information about responding to railroad incidents, including vehicle-train collisions.

Raising awareness of the need for caution around tracks and trains can make the difference between life and death for Duluth's residents.

People never think about the danger that waits at the intersections where trains and vehicles meet -- until it's too late. So the next time you approach a railroad track, whether on foot or in a car, remember to look, listen -- and live.

Helen Sramek is president of Operation Lifesaver, a national nonprofit highway-rail safety and trespass-prevention organization based in Alexandria, Va. She wrote this commentary exclusively for the News Tribune.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.