For 44 years, Operation Lifesaver has worked through partnerships with federal, state and local governments, freight and passenger railroads, the railway supply community and other nonprofit organizations to educate communities in pursuit of our mission. That mission remains the same: providing public education programs to prevent collisions, injuries and fatalities on and around railroad tracks and highway-rail grade crossings. Due to hard work and improvements in engineering, enforcement and education, crossing collisions and rail trespass incidents have been reduced over the past four decades.
My experience at Amtrak, commuter railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has given me a keen appreciation for the importance of the work that Operation Lifesaver and its volunteers do every day across the U.S.
There is more work to be done, however. Highway-rail incidents and trespass casualties have risen each year since 2012, according to FRA statistics. The startling fact remains that every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train. These statistics pose a challenge to the rail safety community that we continue to address.
Here are some of the projects and activities that Operation Lifesaver, Inc. is working on to further the mission in 2016:
· Working with the safety experts at Federal Railroad Administration, Operation Lifesaver will continue the “See Tracks? Think Train!” public rail safety awareness campaign that was first launched in 2014 with the Association of American Railroads. We are developing new materials to reach critical audiences with the next phase of the campaign.
· We will continue to find new ways to reach out to key demographics about the dangers of photography and/or filming on train tracks, through engaging the news media and partnering with industry leaders like Professional Photographers of America. This year our focus will be selfie-takers who unknowingly put themselves in danger near train tracks.
· Our program leaders and safety partners will meet in May to share best practices for public rail safety education at our Leadership Conference, with the theme “Rail Safety – A Mission for Life.”
· We’ll observe International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) June 10-11, joining more than 40 nations worldwide and inviting our partners at Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and FRA to help draw attention to the global issue of crossing safety.
With challenges come opportunity, and I am excited to be part of Operation Lifesaver. I look forward to meeting the challenge to advance our mission, with the help of our state programs, our volunteers and our safety partners.
Won’t you join us?