WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Operation Lifesaver Inc. said it is promoting awareness of rail safety for motorists with two new video public service announcements (PSAs) targeted to younger drivers.
The 30-second spots illustrate how distracted drivers can fail to notice that they are approaching highway-rail grade crossings. (You can view one of the PSAs on the Operation Lifesaver homepage at www.oli.org.)
"Cell phones, texting and other distractions can cause people to pay inadequate attention to the road and at highway-rail intersections," noted Operation Lifesaver President Helen M. Sramek. "Our new PSAs remind drivers to stay focused, especially near train tracks. These days, drivers face multiple sources of distraction both inside their vehicles -- like satellite radios, DVD players and navigation systems -- as well as outside their vehicles. All can have deadly consequences, because there is no second chance if you meet a train at a crossing."
Collisions at railroad crossings continue to be a major problem across the nation. This week, a Metrolink commuter train collided with a vehicle that had been pushed onto the tracks after being rear-ended by another vehicle in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Six people were injured, including two critically. One of the critically injured people is an infant, Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey told the Associated Press.
Earlier this month, in eastern Durham, N.C., two children were killed and a woman was injured when a train slammed into an Explorer SUV sitting on the tracks because it was pinned in by traffic. The boys, ages 9 and 6, were thrown from the SUV and pronounced dead at the scene.
Last year there were more than 2,400 vehicle-train collisions nationwide at highway-rail grade crossings, resulting in more than 1,200 deaths or injuries. Federal statistics also show that inattentive drivers contribute to approximately 3 percent of all vehicle-train crashes at highway-rail grade crossings; another 20 percent of grade crossing collisions involve motor vehicles striking trains at a crossing.
The PSAs will launch in seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington. They will air on cable systems and local television stations in December and January. Funding for the spots comes through a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Department of Transportation.
Here are five reminders and driving-safety tips aimed at preventing such collisions. You may want to pass these along to your fleet drivers.
1. Always expect a train at any crossing -- avoid all distractions.
2. Do not get trapped on the tracks: only proceed through the crossing if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping.
3. Because of their size and weight, trains can't stop quickly -- they can take up to a mile or more to stop.
4. If you see a train approaching, stop. It is actually closer and moving faster than what appears. At multiple track crossings, watch out for a second train approaching from either direction.
5. If your vehicle stalls on the tracks, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks. Look for an emergency number at the crossing to notify authorities to stop any on-coming trains, or call 911 or your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
Operation Lifesaver Inc. is a national, non-profit safety education group whose goal is to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railroad rights of way.
Operation Lifesaver has programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with trained and certified presenters. They provide free safety talks to community groups, school bus drivers, truck drivers and student drivers to raise awareness around railroad tracks and trains. For more information, and to request a free safety presentation, visit www.oli.org.