New California Public Awareness Campaign Aims to Reduce Train-Related Pedestrian Deaths and Injuries


OAKLAND, California, February 11, 2010 – California leads the nation in pedestrian-train fatalities and in the past 12 months, the Bay Area has experienced an upward trend in deadly train incidents.  In an effort to reduce the number of pedestrians who are killed and injured when trespassing around tracks and trains, Amtrak (, Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI,, California’s transportation agencies and major freight railroad companies today announced the launch of the Common Sense rail safety campaign ( The campaign is focused on 18 to 34-year-olds, who make up more than a third of all railroad-related pedestrian casualties.

Injuries and fatalities associated with trespassing on railroad property are a significant – and growing – problem. According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, the casualty rate for all rail trespassers rose in 2008 (the latest full year for which there is statistics). More than 880 Americans died or were injured in railroad-related trespassing incidents in 2008, and the numbers have topped 9,000 in the last ten years. In 2008 California had 60 train-pedestrian fatalities and 48 injuries. Through the first 11 months of 2009, preliminary figures show, 56 California pedestrians were killed in train-related incidents, compared with 53 deaths in the same period for 2008.

The Common Sense campaign kicked off with a news conference at Amtrak’s Oakland maintenance facility, with remarks by Pete Aadland, Operation Lifesaver state coordinator; Captain James Martino, Amtrak Police; Robin Potter, the Fresno mother of a 15-year old who died in 2008 playing on the tracks; and David White, partner, Exit 10 Advertising. The campaign is sponsored in California by Amtrak and Operation Lifesaver, Inc., and is supported by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Caltrain, the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway.

“Our goal for this campaign is to save lives by letting people know that walking or playing around train tracks or using railroad tracks as a shortcut is potentially deadly and always illegal,” said Helen M. Sramek, president of Operation Lifesaver, Inc.

“Pedestrian injuries and fatalities on railroad tracks are preventable,” said William D. Bronte, Division Chief, Caltrans Division of Rail. “People don’t often understand the impact of these incidents on train crews. We are pleased to work with Operation Lifesaver, California’s rail agencies and our industry colleagues in this important effort.”

Roy Deitchman, vice president, environmental health and safety for Amtrak said, “Individuals must make the right decision to stay off the tracks and the Common Sensemessage does just that.  Through this public-private safety partnership, the Common Sensecampaign will raise public awareness and understanding about the risk of trespassing.”

 “My son Shawn lost his life because he thought he could outrun a train. Teenagers and young adults also may be distracted by cell phones, texting, listening to iPods or other MP3 players if they’re near the tracks. This new public awareness campaign has a simple message: staying away from the tracks is common sense, and it can save your life,” said Potter.

Common Sense Safety Tips for Pedestrians

1.  Cross safely!  The only safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a public crossing—designated by the crossbuck.  Look both ways and listen before crossing train tracks.  Expect a train at any time.

2. Don’t be distracted. Turn your cell phone and iPod or other MP3 players off when you’re near train tracks; texting also can be a deadly distraction near the tracks.  Trains are quieter than you think, go faster than they appear, and do not run on set schedules.

3. Never race a train.  If you see a train coming, don’t try to ‘beat’ it, stay off the tracks. Also, an approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think

4. Avoid trespassing.  Tracks, trestles and train yards are all private property.  For your safety, avoid hanging out or socializing near rail property; rail property is no place for pedestrians.

5.  Remember:  Rails and recreation don’t mix!   Never walk, bike, jog, or run down a train track; it's illegal and it's dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer can see a person or a vehicle on the tracks, it is too late. The train cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

Media Contact

Operation Lifesaver, Inc. understands the importance of the news media’s role in helping the public make safe decisions around tracks and trains.

To request further information about Operation Lifesaver’s activities, or for additional safety information, email general[at] or contact our national headquarters office at 703-739-0308.

If you are a reporter seeking information for a local news story, view our list of state Operation Lifesaver program contacts.

If you are on deadline for a story and would like Operation Lifesaver, Inc.'s perspective on a highway-rail safety or trespass prevention topic, email news[at]

About Operation Lifesaver

Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and trespassing on or near railroad tracks. Our team consists of nationwide network of volunteers who work to educate people about rail safety, state coordinators who lead the efforts in states across the U.S. and a national office in Washington, D.C., that supports state programs, develops education materials, and creates public awareness campaigns for audiences of all ages. 


National Office

Operation Lifesaver, Inc.
425 Third Street SW, Suite 915
Washington, D.C. 20024

Fax: 703-519-8267
Email : [email protected]

Media Inquiries: [email protected]

Transit Inquiries: [email protected]

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