Trains, tracks nothing to be played with

Margaret Brackett - Contributing Columnist

Janice Cowen, state organizer for Operation Lifesaver, will highlight the observance of the first national Rail Safety Week (Sept. 24 to Sept. 30) and go over safety tips for pedestrians, track facts, and motorist tips.

There is a real and potentially life-threatening hazard to drivers and pedestrians we don’t consider — driving or walking near train tracks. Federal government statistics show that about every three hours in the United States, a vehicle or person is hit by a train.

Remember, making the right decisions near railroad tracks can truly be the difference between life and death, today and every day.

While vehicle-train collisions in the United States have dropped by 83 percent in the last four decades, there are still more than 2,000 vehicle-train collisions annually across the United States, and last year saw more than 900 injuries and fatalities to people walking, playing or taking photos on the train tracks.

South Carolina is ranked 12th in the nation for the number of motor vehicle-train collisions in 2016. These incidents are devastating to families, communities and train crew members and they are often preventable.

Join our safety efforts. As Operation Lifesaver celebrates its 45th year in 2017, launching a national Rail Safety Week fits with our ongoing mission of reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and preventing trespassing on or near railroad tracks.

Facts and tips are included for your safety education. We encourage you to be creative and help spread our message to the community.

Motorist safety tips

• Trains and cars don’t mix. Never race a rain to a crossing. Even if you tie, you lose.

• If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.

• Trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the engineer sees you, a freight train moving 55 mph can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That’s 18 football fields.

• Never drive around lowered gates. It’s illegal. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on the crossing signal or call your local law enforcement agency.

• If your vehicle stalls on track with a train coming, get out immediately and move away from tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. Call local law enforcement for assistance.

• At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other racks, approaching from either direction.

• When you need to cross train tracks, go to designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly. Remember it is not safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail. Always expect a train. Freight trains do not follow set schedules.

• Proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure to be completely clear of the crossing without stopping. The train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.

Track facts and tips

• Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property and trespassers are subject to arrest and fines.

• There are more than 200,000 miles of railroad tracks in the United States

• Cross tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe all warning signs and signals.

• Do not hunt, fish or bungee jump from railroad trestles. There is only enough clearance on tracks for a train to pass. They are not designed to be sidewalks.

Operation Lifesaver is a non-profit, nationwide public education program dedicated to reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities at intersections where roadways meet railways and along railroad right-of-way. Call 803-206-9081 or visit for more information.

Margaret Brackett

Contributing Columnist

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.