Editor's Notebook: September Offers an Important Reminder about Rail Safety

Sept. 19, 2023
Rail Safety Month and Rail Safety Week offer ample opportunities to focus on preventing tradgedies on and around railroad property.

Some of Mass Transit’s readers may not know I began my career more than 20 years ago covering the construction and maintenance of North America’s railroads. Safety, specifically safety while on or around rail property, has been a consistent subject of coverage throughout my career.

Every September, rail safety becomes the focus of efforts across the United States, Canada and Mexico, as various government agencies, nonprofit organizations and rail industry stakeholders mark Rail Safety Month, which culminates this year during the week of Sept. 18-24 with Rail Safety Week.

The goal of Rail Safety Month and Rail Safety Week is simple, but lofty: Raise awareness of safety conduct around rail project to reduce the number of injuries and deaths.

According to Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), more than 60 percent of collisions occur at grade crossings equipped with lights and/or gates more than 2,100 people are injured or killed annually in crossing and trespassing incidents in North America and trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in the U.S.

Unfortunately, another constant throughout my career has been how steady these statistics have been year-over-year. These statistics can be frustrating knowing the time, effort and financial investment that has been placed into various education, engineering and enforcement initiatives. These numbers are also tragic because most of these incidents are so very preventable.

This is why the industry needs dedicated partners like OLI, which never stops developing new campaigns, refining target audience messaging and outreach efforts with a goal of seeing those statistics mentioned above notch downward.

Rail Safety Week 2023 will focus on a unifying theme to “stop track tragedies” and will feature seven days of activities designed to target a a broad spectrum of audiences:

  • Sept. 18: #STOPTrackTragedies
  • Sept. 19: Operation Clear Track, which will highlight partnerships between rail entities and local law enforcement and first responders.
  • Sept. 20: Crossing safety, which will focus on mature drivers, shift workers, risk takers and others to educate on the importance of safe activity when around grade crossings.
  • Sept. 21 will focus on transit safety.
  • Sept. 22 is wear red for rail safety day.
  • Sept. 23 will focus on trespass prevention.
  • Sept. 24 will aim to educate professional and amateur photographers and social media influencers on safety activity on or around rail property.

OLI is recommending supporters get involved in Rail Safety Month and Rail Safety Week by sharing the rail safety message and make good decisions around tracks and trains.

While September’s special focus on rail safety draws attention to the cause, sharing the rail safety message all year long is essential to maintain awareness that could save lives. 

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.