Michigan Operation Lifesaver puts focus on saving lives as U.S. Rail Safety Week starts

Contact: Sam Crowl, Michigan Operation Lifesaver state coordinator
Agency: Transportation

Rail Safety Week Poster

Nonprofit rail safety organization, partners stress caution near tracks

Fast facts:
- U.S. Rail Safety Week is Sept. 24-30.
- In 2016, eight people were killed or injured in vehicle-train collisions in Michigan. 
- Thirteen pedestrians or trespassers were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks in Michigan last year.

September 25, 2017 -- Saving lives by alerting pedestrians and drivers to the dangers of being inattentive at highway-rail grade crossings and along train tracks is the focus of a new campaign by the rail safety education nonprofit Michigan Operation Lifesaver during the first U.S. Rail Safety Week (RSW), Sept. 24-30.

"While the number of highway-rail crossing collisions, deaths, and injuries have dropped over the past five decades, it's still a startling fact that about every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train," said Sam Crowl, Michigan Operation Lifesaver state coordinator.

Public service announcements, billboard campaigns, and other activities are planned across the state. The U.S. RSW is supported by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Michigan Operation Lifesaver, Michigan Railroads Association (MRA), Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), freight railroads, and other safety partners.

Preliminary FRA data for Michigan show eight people were killed or injured in vehicle-train collisions in 2016. In addition, 13 pedestrians or trespassers were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks in Michigan last year.

"The goal of RSW is to raise awareness of the need for rail safety education and empower Michigan residents to keep themselves safe near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights of way," said Tim Hoeffner, MDOT Office of Rail director. "We fully support Michigan Operation Lifesaver and RSW's goal: educating our citizens to automatically expect a train on any track or at any crossing, and to take appropriate precautions."

Several proclamations and activities will take place across the state each day during RSW, including:

Monday, Sept. 25
Railroads, MDOT, Michigan State Police, other state officials, local sheriffs, and university police will kick off RSW at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway in East Lansing.

- Educational handouts begin at 8:30 a.m.
- The "See Tracks? Think Train!" media event starts at 9 a.m.
- Light refreshments will be provided by CN Railroad.

Tuesday, Sept. 26
Tuesday will feature the "Operation Clear Tracks" initiative, where local, state, federal, and railroad police will be stationed at the top railroad grade crossings and/or trespassing incident locations to hand out safety materials to motorists and pedestrians, and issue warnings and citations to those violating state laws.

- Amtrak will have an officer on the Grand Rapids-to-Chicago Pere Marquette service. The train departs the Vernon J. Ehlers Station in Grand Rapids at 6 a.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 27            
Wednesday will include a focus on crossing safety, with events and ads to promote awareness of the Emergency Notification System (ENS) signs posted near all railroad crossings. The signs have an 800-number to call to report vehicles stuck on the tracks, signal malfunctions or other issues.

- An Amtrak train educational initiative will take place on the Blue Water service from Port Huron to Battle Creek.
        - CN Railroad will have an officer on the train talking with passengers.
- Battle Creek Amtrak Station
        - Educational handouts begin at 9:30 a.m.

Thursday, Sept. 28
Thursday will be known as "Transit Safety Thursday," with events at transit, light rail, and commuter rail stations, as well as a digital ad campaign.

Friday, Sept. 29
Friday will include a focus on trespass prevention, with Operation Lifesaver urging students, employees, and others to participate in a "red-out for rail safety awareness" event by having everyone wear red. Operation Lifesaver volunteers will be at sporting events and other activities to distribute materials and trespass prevention safety tips.       

- Ann Arbor Amtrak Station
        - Educational handouts will be given out from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
- Holland Amtrak Station
        - Educational handouts begin at 6:30 a.m.

Saturday, Sept. 30    
The final day of RSW will include celebrating "community connections," with safety blitzes and other awareness events in communities across the U.S.

About Operation Lifesaver 
Operation Lifesaver (OLI) is a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and preventing trespassing on or near railroad tracks. A national network of trained volunteers gives free presentations on rail safety, provides the public with tips and statistics to encourage safe behavior near the tracks, and promotes a public awareness campaign: "See Tracks? Think Train!" Visit the OLI website at www.oli.org to learn more about RSW events, find materials, and learn how you can become part of the team.