Railroads help teach safety tips
November 13, 2006
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) ” As part of Operation Lifesaver on Monday, Aug. 21, Chad Korth gave his audience an example of what happens when a train hits a car:
When a 12 million-pound train hits a 3,000-pound car, it’s like a 3,000-pound car running over a 12-ounce soda can.
Forth gave that example to a railroad passenger car filled with people who took a Union Pacific train ride to Central City and back to Grand Island on Monday morning.
In addition to being a volunteer, Korth is also an engineer for the Nebraska Central Railroad.
“The last thing I want to see is someone out in front of me,” he said.
But too often, people in the United States try to beat trains through the crossing.
Recommended Stories For You
Forth said the tie never goes to the motorist because of the great weight disparity between train and a car, sport-utility vehicle or even a semitrailer truck.
The motorist is always going to come out the loser, he said.
Operation Lifesaver said preliminary statistics show that 355 people were killed and 970 were seriously injured in more than 3,000 traffic accidents nationwide during 2005.
A person is 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle, according to information provided by Operation Lifesaver.
Pedestrians also can be at danger, especially if they are trespassing on railroad property. According to Operation Lifesaver, at least 485 people were killed and 386 were injured while trespassing on railroad rights of way and properties in the U.S.
The average train overhangs the track by at least three feet, while wider loads can extend even further, according to Operation Lifesaver. People should remain at least 25 feet from the tracks.
Put motorist and pedestrian accidents together, and either a vehicle or a pedestrian is struck by a train every two hours. That’s 12 accidents per day.
Korth told his audience that it seems that rural crossings with wooden crossbucks would be the most dangerous crossings. He said it seems only logical that a crossing with flashing lights and gates would be much safer.
However, nearly 50 percent of crossing accidents happen at intersections with lights and gates, Korth said.
Wooden railroad crossbucks function as a yield sign for motorists, Korth said. When a train engineer sounds the horn, that’s a signal there is the train is within a “hazardous proximity” to the intersection, and motorists should yield by stopping.
Hazardous proximity is a legal standard, he said.
At other intersections, motorists should stop when the lights begin to flash and before the gates lower.
Korth emphasized that fact by pointing out that railroad gates typically have three red lights. The two lights on the inside alternate flashing. The red light on the end of the gate emits a steady beam. Just like a red traffic light, that light at the gate’s farthest end means motorists should stop.
Korth said the best drivers are defensive drivers.
He said drivers should know exactly how many sets of tracks they have to cross at an intersection. A defensive driver will never follow so close behind another vehicle that if it stops, he or she will get stuck on the track.
Korth said the three facets of Operation Lifesaver are education, engineering and enforcement. He asked his audience to pass his safety tips on to others.
Korth noted that when he talks to a class of 30 driver’s education students, he likes to hear that they have gone home and talked to their parents. That means at least 90 people get his safety tips, and even more if brothers, sisters and other family members are included.
Shelly Harshaw, who also made Operation Lifesaver presentations Monday, said before the first train left in the morning that enforcement is becoming a bigger part of the program.
“Unfortunately, despite our education programs, what really makes the impression for some people is the $100 (fine plus $44.50 court costs),” Harshaw said.