What you need to know about rail safety

Photo credit GETTY IMAGES

It's Rail Safety Week from September 18-24. This collaborative effort looks to help all of us make great decisions around railroad tracks.

Every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train. And more than 60% of vehicle-train collisions happen at active crossings with gates or signals.

Norfolk Southern is one of the big industry railroads wanting to get the word out this week.

KRLD's John Liddle got some great tips from John Fleps, Vice President of Safety for Norfolk Southern.

Tip #1: Don't get complacent.

When near railroad tracks, always assume there is a train coming. Even at grade crossings with gates and signals, it takes a train a significant distance to come to a stop. Stay clear of the tracks, especially when crossing them.

"That's the danger that can creep up on all of us," Fleps says. "When you're around railroad tracks, you think, 'Okay. There's a train. It's gonna be loud. It's gonna be noisy. I'm gonna have plenty of time to know what is coming. When it's blasting its horn, I'll have time to get out of the way.'

"When you see tracks, just assume there's a train coming. Especially if you're about to cross the tracks at what's called a grade crossing, which is just a road that goes over the railroad tracks."

Remember, a freight train can take up to a mile to stop. Be defensive and stay clear of tracks.

Tip #2: Watch out for blind spots.

If you approach a passive crossing (without gates or lights), remember that the train always has the right of way. Look both ways, just like when crossing the street, before proceeding safely across the tracks.

"As you pull up, don't be blind to what's going on to your left and to your right," says Fleps. "Prepare to stop. Look both ways just like you teach your kids when they're crossing the street. Make sure there's nothing coming and then proceed safely across the tracks."

The rail industry is also  incorporating advanced technology to enhance safety.

"We use machine vision to take a look at our railcars and our locomotives to ensure that they are safe," Fleps says. "And then we also help out our locomotive engineers and conductors with technology that helps them operate the train safely."

For more information and resources, visit the Operation Lifesaver website. This nonprofit organization focuses on raising awareness and promoting safety around railroad tracks.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES