It’s a matchup no person or car will ever win — a hit from an oncoming train. Yet every day, people across the Greater Philadelphia region attempt to beat those odds by making the risky choice of walking along train tracks or driving through grade crossings when the gates are closing or are already down.
“No one can outrun or outdrive a train,” said Scott Sauer, SEPTA’s director of system safety and a board member for Operation Lifesaver Inc., a national organization dedicated to rail safety. “And no one should ever assume that there is a time when tracks are completly clear of train traffic. A train can come on any track at any time.”
According to Operation Lifesaver, across the country, a person or vehicle is struck by a train approximately once every three hours. In 2013, more than 908 pedestrians were injured or killed while walking on or near railroad tracks, up almost eight percent from 2012. Of the rail-related deaths, 95 percent involve drivers trying to beat a train, or people trespassing on railroad tracks.
“The majority of train related incidents are preventable,” said Sauer. “A moving train can’t steer out of the way of an object or person in the tracks and it takes more effort and time to slow or stop a train. By crossing the tracks instead of using a dedicated overpass or underpass or driving through the grade crossing when the gates are down, people are putting themselves in imminent, and unnecessary, danger.”
To remind the public that train tracks are not the place for people or cars, SEPTA is partnering with Operation Livesaver on the organization’s new “See Tracks? Think Train!” initiative. This public service campaign, which launches today, is aimed at reducing the number of pedestrian and driver injuries and fatalities around railroad tracks by highlighting risky behaviors. SEPTA’s System Safety officers will feature information from the program in the many Operation Lifesaver rail safety presentations they make across the Authority’s service area.
“Our safety officers regularly speak to students from kindergarten through high school and to a wide variety of audiences such as hearing and visually impaired adults, driver’s education students, emergency responders and professional drivers,” said Sauer. “We offer the presentations free of charge to school and community groups. Each program is tailored to the specific audience and includes a slide show, video and question-and answer session.”