Risky business: Trespassers court danger on railroad tracks
Category: Auto Accidents
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According to the Federal Railroad Administration, Indiana ranked 14th nationally in 2021 in pedestrian deaths and injuries caused by trespassing on railroad tracks and property.
Already this year, the region has seen two such incidents, both resulting in death.
In the first incident, a Fort Wayne man, Bradley Wayne Boggs, 64, died March 12 at 11:15 a.m. near railroad tracks south of Spencerville. According to police, Boggs was struck by a train as he was walking about 1 1/2 miles from where his car had broken down.
Tragically, Boggs had declined a ride from an Allen County sheriff’s officer just 30 minutes before he was struck.
More recently, Logan Schambers, 18, of Avilla, was killed April 15 in a 3:30 a.m. accident just west of Hicksville, Ohio, where he had been a former resident. The investigation continues into why he was on the CSX tracks.
CSX issued this statement by spokesperson Sheriee Bowman:
“Public safety is a priority at CSX, and the company works closely with its employees, communities and industry partners on education and awareness programs designed to end collisions, fatalities and injuries at grade crossings and on railroad tracks. Crossings are where people most frequently interact with trains, and unfortunately, accidents between trains and pedestrians or vehicles are all too common. About every 3 hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train.
“With our partners at the non-profit Operation Lifesaver, we work hard to raise awareness about the dangers of railroad tracks, and how to safely cross them. Ignoring warning signs and signals at grade crossings is not only illegal, it’s extremely dangerous — walking on railroad tracks even more so. Railroad employees and first responders know this all too well, as they witness the tragic consequences that can occur when safety precautions are ignored.
“We find education and awareness to be the best tools in preventing accidents and injuries, and we are committed to reaching as many people as we can. For more railroad safety tips and materials that can be shared with family and friends, visit OLI.org.”
All train tracks are private property, as are switching yards, sidings and storage areas. Trespassing onto railroad property is illegal at all times and extremely dangerous.
Pedestrians, hunters, joggers and off-road vehicle riders put themselves at great risk when they give into temptation to walk or ride on or near the railroad tracks. Texting on the phone, wearing headphones, not paying attention or other distractions compound the risks for pedestrians, who may not hear or see the train coming.
Pedestrians and motorists often visually misjudge the size and speed of an approaching train, which is always faster and closer than it appears. Pedestrians assume they will hear a “clickety-clack” sound or the train’s horn if a train approaches, but modern trains are quieter than in the past.
The average locomotive weighs about 200 tons (400,000 pounds) and can weigh as much at 6,000 tons. According to Operation Lifesaver Inc., a non-profit public safety education organization dedicated to reducing railroad casualties and collisions, the weight ratio of a train to a car is the same as a car to an aluminum soda can.
Trains have the right-of-way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, police and pedestrians. A train can NEVER stop in time to avoid hitting a vehicle or person on the tracks. The average train traveling 55 mph takes more than a mile — the length of 18 football fields — to come to a stop.
Pedestrians may also assume they are far enough away from the rails to be safe. A train can extend 3 feet or more on each side from the parallel rails, so the safe zone is well beyond that, far away from the tracks.
Indiana Operation Lifesaver is part of a national nonprofit organization that promotes rail safety through public awareness campaigns and education initiatives, including free safety presentations by authorized volunteers.
OL representatives speak to school groups, driver education classes, community audiences, professional drivers, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, and others. The program is co-sponsored by state and local government agencies, highway safety organizations, America’s railroads, and other entities.
Operation Lifesaver works together with these agencies to promote the three E’s — education, enforcement and engineering — to keep people safe around the tracks and railway crossings within their communities.
Indiana Operation Lifesaver offers these safety tips for pedestrians:
- Always expect a train. Trains are quieter and faster than you think, can run on any track, at any time, from either direction and do not run on schedules.
- Walking on or beside railroad tracks is illegal.
- The only safe place to cross tracks is at designated public crossings with a crossbuck, flashing red lights or a gate. Crossing anywhere else is illegal.
- Crossing tracks on a bike, with a stroller, in a wheelchair, or on other narrow wheels requires caution and extra attention. Plan ahead when choosing a route. When possible, walk, don’t ride across the tracks. Cyclists, walk your bike across train tracks at a 90 degree angle. If in a wheelchair, consider getting assistance or taking an alternate route.
- Never pass flashing lights or go around lowered gates. Always wait until lights have stopped flashing and gates are completely raised.
- Wait to cross until you can see clearly in both directions. Multiple tracks may mean multiple trains.
- Stay off railroad bridges and trestles. Stay out of railroad tunnels. There is ONLY ROOM for the train.
- Do not attempt to hop aboard railroad equipment at any time. Trains, tracks and railroad yards are NOT playgrounds. Never climb on, under or through railroad cars. Never jump on or off a train while it’s moving.
Just Thursday, the national Operation Lifesaver Inc. and Federal Highway Administration announced that Indiana Operation Lifesaver was among the grant recipients in 11 states for public education railroad safety programs.
The grants will fund a variety of highway-rail grade crossing safety public education projects, many of which will be conducted in conjunction with the non-profit safety group’s observance of Rail Safety Week, Sept. 19-25, 2022.
According to a news release, Indiana Operation Lifesaver will use OLI’s Shift Worker Public Service Announcement in a targeted geofencing, geofarming and social conquesting campaign to reach hospital employees, police, first responders, EMTs, manufacturing workers and truck drivers in high-incident counties.
Safety blitzes also will be conducted in these areas to distribute brochures and branded insulated coolers to shift workers. The campaign will take place July through September 2022 and include extra coverage during Rail Safety Week.
More FELA railroad settlement information you may be interested in:
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