Being safe around railroads

KIMT News 3 – Despite decades of decreasing casualties at railroad crossings across the country, there was an increase between 2012 and 2013. In Minnesota, the rate doubled. So groups are teaming up to make sure that does not happen again.

Albert Lea is home to many railroad tracks and plenty of them cross over busy intersections.

“It’s not entirely uncommon for a vehicle to try and straighten that out and drive across the tracks and get hung up on the railroad tracks,” said Lt. Darren Hanson of the Albert Lea Police Department.

What can be even more concerning for them is when people get daring and hang out on the tracks.

“We do have a number of calls on the railroad tracks where kids or even adults are fishing. The bridges are a bad place to fish. If you don’t hear the train coming right away, you may not have time to get off the railroad tracks,” Hanson said.

Those types of things are why Minnesota Operation Lifesaver is trying to remind people to play it safe around tracks.

They work with authorities across the state for one of their Three E’s, Enforcement.

“Just to help to encourage them, to remind people that it’s not legal to go around the gates, it’s our responsibility to stop and look for trains before we cross those tracks,” said Sheryl Cummings, Executive Director of Minnesota Operation Livesaver.

As part of Rail Crossing Safety Awareness Month in Minnesota, they are also teaming up with MnDOT for another one of their E’s, that being engineering.

40 crossings throughout the state are getting improvements.

“Warning devices, what we would call gates, active lights, bells, whistles, all of those things,” Cummings said.

She said it is the E that stands for education that could be the most important, because most incidents take place where it is clearly marked.

“The statistics show that nearly half of all the highway-rail grade crossing incidents that occur, occur at gate crossings that have active warning devices,” Cummings said.

She said that while most small vehicles going 55 miles per hour can stop at around 200 feet, trains going the same speed would take a mile or more with their emergency brakes applied.

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