This week is “Rail Safety Week” in Indiana and the United States, which means you’re being reminded of the dangers of railroad crossings.
In 2019, Indiana had 120 railroad crossing collisions, resulting in 44 injuries and 11 deaths.
“Indiana is ranked in the top five, every year, in the country for railroad crossing collisions and different events, like trespassing injuries and fatalities,” said Jessica Feder, the executive director for Indiana Operation Lifesaver.
They’re teaming up with Indiana State Police, Indiana Department of Transportation and other agencies and companies to raise awareness about the dangers of disregarding railroad crossing laws and trespassing on railroad property. You’ll be seeing videos on social media with their campaign called #STOPTrackTragedies. The videos feature personal stories from victims, friends and family members, locomotive engineers and first responders who have impacted by incidents.
Life can change in an instant if you trespass on railroad tracks. Every year, hundreds of Americans are killed or injured in these incidents. Talk to your family and friends about rail safety. #RailSafetyWeek #STOPTrackTragedies pic.twitter.com/QyA3V4CHFN
— Operation Lifesaver (@olinational) September 21, 2020
Feder says it’s not just “cars vs. train” crashes that cause injuries and deaths. Walking along train tracks is just as dangerous.
“Walking on or near railroad tracks is illegal,” she said. “They’re private property, they’re owned by a railroad company. It’s finable up to $1,000, or one year in jail, in Indiana.”
She says trespassing is up in 2020, and believes it’s because more people, including children, are spending more time at home during the pandemic. But kids get bored, and they find something to do outdoors, and walking along railroad tracks is one thing they’re drawn to. Feder says it’s more dangerous now than ever before.
“Trains are quieter now,” she said. “You don’t get that clickity-clack sound anymore because you have welded rails, and it’s really hard to tell, especially if you have noise-canceling headphones on or earbuds in. you don’t hear a train coming up behind you anymore.”
She adds that trespassing numbers are trickier to report, because anytime you hear about a trespassing event, it’s only when an injury or fatality occurs.
“So that’s not counting all the times someone gets arrested or ticketed for trespassing, or there was a near-miss.”
Feder says you should do your part to help lower the number of “preventable deaths and injuries.”