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"See Tracks? Think Train!" during Rail Safety Week

LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Operation Lifesaver are partnering together to raise rail safety awareness during Rail Safety Week this week.

Although most Americans today know the dangers associated with drunk driving, distracted driving or texting while crossing the street, many are unaware of the risks they are taking around railroad tracks.

According to preliminary statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration, 614 pedestrians were killed and 526 injured in trespassing incidents on railroad tracks in 2021, with an additional 236 fatalities and 668 injuries resulting from vehicle-train collisions at rail crossings. In fact, every three hours in the United States a vehicle or person is struck by a train. In Michigan in 2021, there were eight trespasser deaths and three injuries, along with six grade crossing fatalities and 20 grade crossing injuries. The use of headphones has likely been a factor in some of these incidents.

So, why is this happening, and what can we do about it?

In our distracted society, people may become complacent or might not understand the need for caution near railroad tracks and trains. Pedestrians and drivers often simply do not realize that it is dangerous and illegal to walk on railroad tracks or how long it takes the average freight train to stop.

Michigan Operation Lifesaver, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, works every day to make communities safer by offering free rail safety education programs in states across the nation.

Trained volunteers tell people that trains are quieter and moving faster than they appear; in some places the speed is up to 110 mph. Since it can take a mile or more for a fully loaded train to stop, by the time an engineer sees a person or vehicle on the tracks and applies the emergency brakes, it is often too late to avoid a collision.

Michigan Operation Lifesaver also conducts free training classes for first responders, school bus drivers and professional truck drivers, along with other public awareness activities to help reduce these incidents and save lives. In addition, Operation Lifesaver offers a suite of safety materials, including lesson plans for teachers, safety brochures and videos for families, and a free Railroad Investigation and Safety Course (RISC) for first responders.

Everyone can save a life in their community by sharing the rail safety message and remembering this simple phrase: "See Tracks? Think Train!" Visit the national Operation Lifesaver website to learn more, take the Rail Safety Pledge, and find safety tips to share with your friends and family. Together, we can stop track tragedies during Rail Safety Week and all year round.

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