Rail Safety Week 2020: Heart-stopping near miss videos meant to grab attention

Sept. 22, 2020
Complacency, distracted walking and biking and any other diversion that pulls attention away from an active rail line can end in tragic consequences.

Metrolinx and the Regional Transportation District (RTD) of Denver have shared near miss videos of close calls along their respective rail lines. While the videos can be hard to watch and can be classified as heart-stopping, the one thing they also do is grab attention – the one thing many of the people appearing in the videos seem to be lacking.

Metrolinx Media Relations Senior Advisor Scott Money writes in a blog about the near miss videos that Rail Safety Week provides the regional transportation agency the opportunity to remind Greater Toronto Area (GTA) customers and community members to stay safe when they are near or crossing tracks.

“Within the GTA, there are more than 200 level rail crossings, 122 of which are Metrolinx owned. In 2020 so far, crossing incidents have resulted in 12 deaths and 4 serious injuries in Ontario,” writes Money.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Money says GO Transit Safety Officers and GO Transit staff, in partnership with Operation Lifesaver Canada, would be active year-round participating in and spreading the rail safety message to community groups. The pandemic has forced a change in approach, for example providing safety resources on an USB versus holding an in-person event.

“This year as Rail Safety Week unfolds in an unprecedented era of personal protective equipment and physical distancing – where everyone has had to make sacrifices – organizations like Metrolinx are redoubling their efforts to ensure progress on rail safety is not lost,” writes Money. “At Metrolinx, Safety Never Stops and that message rings even more clearly this September.”

RTD in Denver has undergone a rapid build out of its rail system, including the opening of the N Line on Sept. 21. Last year, the district published a compilation of near misses involving incidents on its rail property and reshared the compilation to bring additional awareness during Rail Safety Week 2020.

“Safety is a core value at RTD, for ourselves and those in the communities we serve. Although we work hard to make safety a part of everything we do, there are ongoing instances of unsafe behavior near our rail system,” said Lindsey Alarcon, senior specialist of safety communications for RTD.

RTD is partnering with Operation Lifesaver, Inc., and Amtrak during Rail Safety Week to increase awareness about safety near tracks and trains.

RTD is asking riders and community members to make smart decisions around rail systems by:

Avoiding distractions from your cell phone and loud music.

Following safety signage and obey warning devices like flashing red lights and gate arms.

Stopping and waiting for crossing gates to fully rise before crossing the tracks.

Only crossing at designated rail crossings.

Never walking or biking along the tracks – it's illegal and dangerous.

Always looking both ways before crossing the tracks.

Update 9/22, 6:00pm: Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority also has a compilation of close calls. Different from near misses in that some incidents resulted in property damage. 

Video credits from top to bottom: Metrolinx (first and second); Regional Transportation District of Denver and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. 


Rail Safety Week is taking place in the U.S., Canada and Mexico Sept. 21-27, 2020. Rail Safety Week raises awareness of safe actions and activities around rail crossings and railroad rights-of-way. While a typical Rail Safety Week would see numerous in person outreach efforts, the pandemic has shifted this year’s emphasis to social media and virtual safety messaging. More can be found at Operation Lifesaver’s website.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.