Railroads run through our town and our history can be traced to the emergence of rail.
While we become so accustomed to the whistle of the train that we no longer hear it, everyone should be reminded that train crossings can be dangerous places.
All too often we have to report on a vehicle or a person being hit by a train, resulting in a fatality or serious injury.
Those are preventable tragedies.
This week is recognized as Rail Safety Week across the nation.
We have all been stopped at the tracks when we are in a rush and, sometimes, get a little frustrated. We might try counting cars and looking for the elusive caboose, but still it can seem like the slow-moving train goes on forever. The object of youthful fantasy can become the bane of our existence, at least for a few moments on a busy day.
Of course, freight trains move goods across our nation and are crucial for our economy and quality of life, and it is simply not possible to circumvent all busy intersections or build overpasses on all congested roadways.
The hashtag #STOPTrackTragedies is helping raise awareness of the preventable train track tragedies during Rail Safety Week, which started Monday, Sept. 21, and concludes Sunday, Sept. 27.
About 2,100 people across the nation lose their lives or suffer serious injury each year in train track incidents.
That is why during this Rail Safety Week, Georgia Operation Lifesaver, Operation Lifesaver, Inc. and Operation Lifesaver Canada are working together to raise awareness.
There are related events going on across Georgia, but here are a few safety reminders from Operation Lifesaver:
— Trains and cars don’t mix. Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
— The train you see is closer and faster-moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
— Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That’s 18 football fields.
— Never drive around lowered gates — it’s illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the emergency number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law-enforcement agency.
— Do not get trapped on the tracks; proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
— If your vehicle ever stalls on the tracks, get out and get away from the tracks, even if you do not see a train. Locate the Emergency Notification System sign and call the number provided, telling them about the stalled vehicle. If a train is approaching, run toward the train but away from the tracks at a 45 degree angle. If you run in the same direction a train is traveling, you could be injured by flying debris.
— At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
— When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping. Remember it isn’t safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
— Always expect a train. Freight trains do not follow set schedules.
Pedestrians must also be warned that train tracks are not a place to play or take chances. The only safe place to cross is at a designated public crossing. Lifesaver also cautions it can take a mile or more to stop a train, and that means a locomotive engineer who suddenly sees someone on the tracks will likely be unable to stop in time.
So count the cars, sing “The Little Red Caboose,” be patient, don’t take chances, observe all signals, flashing lights and warning signs and stay safe.