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February 17, 2010 > Pedestrian safety around railroads

Pedestrian safety around railroads

Submitted By Carol Steckbeck

California leads the nation in pedestrian-train fatalities. In the past 12 months, the Bay Area has seen an increase in the number of pedestrians killed or injured when trespassing around tracks and trains.

On February 11, Amtrak (, Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI,, transportation agencies and major freight railroad companies announced the launch of the Common Sense rail-safety campaign ( It focuses on 18 to 34-year-olds, who make up more than a third of all railroad-related pedestrian casualties.

Injuries and fatalities associated with trespassing on railroad property have been on the increase. According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, the number of rail trespassers who died or were injured in 2008 rose to more than 880 (the latest full year for which there is statistics), with an aggregate of 9,000 in the last ten years. In 2008, California had 60 train-pedestrian fatalities and 48 injuries. Preliminary figures for the first 11 months of 2009 show 56 California pedestrians were killed in train-related incidents, compared with 53 deaths in the same period for 2008.

The Common Sense campaign, sponsored in California by Amtrak and Operation Lifesaver, Inc., is supported by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Caltrain, the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway and Exit 10 Advertising.

"Our goal for this campaign is to save lives by letting people know that walking or playing around train tracks or using railroad tracks as a shortcut is potentially deadly and always illegal," said Helen M. Sramek, president of Operation Lifesaver, Inc.

"Pedestrian injuries and fatalities on railroad tracks are preventable," said William D. Bronte, Division Chief, Caltrans Division of Rail. "People seldom understand the impact of these incidents on train crews. We're pleased to work with Operation Lifesaver, California's rail agencies and our industry colleagues in this important effort."

"Individuals must make the right decision to stay off the tracks. Through this public-private safety partnership, the Common Sense campaign will raise public awareness and understanding about the risk of trespassing," said Roy Deitchman, vice president, environmental health and safety for Amtrak.

"My son Shawn lost his life because he thought he could outrun a train. Teenagers and young adults also may be distracted by cell phones, texting, listening to iPods or other MP3 players if they're near the tracks. This new public awareness campaign has a simple message: staying away from the tracks is common sense and can save your life," said Robin Potter, the Fresno mother of a 15-year old who died in 2008 playing on the tracks.

Fore more information about the Common Sense Campaign, visit

Common Sense Safety Tips for Pedestrians

Cross safely! The only safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a public crossing, designated by the cross buck. Look both ways and listen before crossing train tracks. Expect a train at any time.

Don't be distracted. Turn off your cell phone and iPod or other MP3 players when you're near train tracks; texting also can be a deadly distraction near the tracks. Trains are quieter than you think, go faster than they appear and do not run on set schedules.

Never race a train. If you see a train coming, don't try to 'beat' it; stay off the tracks. Also, an approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think.

Avoid trespassing. Tracks, trestles and train yards are all private property. For your safety, avoid hanging out or socializing near rail property; rail property is no place for pedestrians.

Rail and recreation don't mix! Never walk, bike, jog, or run down a train track; it's illegal and it's dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer can see a person or a vehicle on the tracks, it is too late. The train cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

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