Led by a duo of powerful, no-nonsense public service announcements spotlighting the deadly consequences resulting from poor choices made at railroad crossings, NJ Transit Board Chairman and New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein and members of the NJ Safety at Railroad Crossings Leadership Oversight Committee unveiled a new series of safety initiatives today at separate events in Camden and Bergen counties.
Following the deaths of three teenagers in October of last year, Commissioner Simpson organized and convened the Railroad Crossings Leadership Oversight Committee; comprised of representatives from agencies such as the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NJ Department of Education, State Police, Motor Vehicle Commission and NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety, NJ Transit Police, NJDOT, NJ Transit and Operation Lifesaver. Challenging the members to come up with recommendations within 30 days to mitigate the senseless, tragic deaths, the Committee heeded the Commissioner’s call; issuing initial recommendations within the deadline, and detailed recommendations this past winter.
“This committee has relentlessly pursued every available avenue to prevent fatalities on the rail system, through an approach we call ‘E-cubed’ — Engineering, Enforcement and Education,” said Commissioner Simpson. “Today, we are taking this approach to the next level – launching more aggressive enforcement, preparing to install new physical barriers and technological warning systems, and airing a duo of blunt, no-nonsense public service announcements that crystallize the very impact wrought by poor choices at railroad crossings.”
Separately appealing to both parents and children with a “between the eyes”, unmistakable message featuring two NJ Transit engineers and a NJ Transit conductor who have been involved in railroad fatalities, the two new public service announcements also feature two NJ Transit police officers who have both responded to railroad fatalities - and been forced to inform the families of the deceased. These testimonials also include personal perspective from Billy Carroll, a Westmont resident whose son was fatally injured on the Atlantic City Line in November, 2009, along with Matt Mattheiss, the lone survivor of a 1975 South Orange railway incident which resulted in the deaths of three of his close friends.
“Making bad choices along the tracks impacts everyone – from the train engineer who can’t stop the train in time — to the police who have to identify the victim and then deliver the news to their family,” Commissioner Simpson said. “We previously revamped our safety campaign to provide a real, first-hand account from those impacted by poor choices made along the track, and these tough new ads take this effort to the next level. They offer an unmistakable message — stay off the tracks.”
At the direction of Commissioner Simpson and the Committee, NJDOT and NJ Transit will be deploying Dynamic Message signs at high-risk grade-crossing locations, to remind pedestrians of the importance of obeying warning and safety devices. NJ Transit will soon be testing a new, “second train coming” warning sign at the Outwater Lane crossing in Garfield, adjacent to the new Plauderville rail station. This warning sign is slated to be operational by mid-July.