Law enforcement agencies across the state are bringing awareness to rail road safety as a part of National Rail Safety Week.
The observance began on Monday, September 20 and will continue until Sunday, September 26. The Louisiana State Police is partnering with Louisiana Operation Lifesaver and local law enforcement agencies to bring awareness to railroad safety. The goal of Rail Safety Week is to educate the general public to keep themselves safe near highway-rail grade crossings.
According to State Police, in 2020, 1,377 motor vehicle crashes occurred at public rail grade crossings resulting in 94 deaths and another 494 people injured. From 2016 to 2020, 1,620 collisions occurred when drivers went around or through a lowered gate, accounting for 21 percent of all collisions.
Officials say these deaths were largely preventable and caused by risky driving behaviors and poor decision-making.
"It's not something they can avoid," said Louisiana State Police TFC Thomas Gossen. "They can do everything they can to stop the train, but the physics do not allow them to stop."
Louisiana State Police and Louisiana Operation Lifesaver provided a few safety tips to follow when approaching railroad grade crossings:
• Look both ways and listen closely. This is important because trains may be traveling faster than they appear. They can also travel on any track, in any direction, at any time.
• Trains and cars do not mix. Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
• Never drive around lowered gates — it is illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
• 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.
• 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 a track with a train coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming.
• If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
• At a multiple-track crossing, 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 you should not stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
• In case of an emergency, you can report it by calling the Emergency Notification System sign by calling the phone number listed, or by dialing 911.
• ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN! Freight trains do not follow set schedules.
Not only is it illegal to drive through a railroad crossing while the arms are coming down and the lights are flashing, but if you stop on a track while waiting at an intersection, you will get a ticket.
"Trains do not stop on a dime. It takes a mile for a train to stop. The force of a train hitting a car is equivalent to you running over a soda can in a parking lot. It is not a pretty sight if a car gets hit by a train," added Gossen.
According to officials, every four hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train.
Gossen says there is a phone number at every crossing; if you find yourself stuck, you should call that number immediately.
"That goes directly to the train's dispatcher, to this train," he explained. "That is the quickest way to get a train to stop."
He also says if you find yourself stuck in between the cross-arms, you should run away from the train in the direction it is coming from. If you run in the direction it's going, your changes of getting hit with debris become much greater.
For more information visit the Louisiana Operation Lifesaver website at www.laoperationlifesaver.org.
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