Operation Lifesaver Hails New Lows in 2009 Grade Crossing Incidents, Deaths and Injuries
WASHINGTON, DC, March 9, 2010 - Operation Lifesaver, the national rail safety education nonprofit, welcomed newly released federal statistics showing the lowest number of deaths and injuries from highway-rail grade crossing collisions recorded to date. For the first time ever, the number of crossing collisions fell below 2,000 to 1,880, a 21.9 % drop from 2008. Decreases were also recorded in both vehicular and freight train traffic, which may have contributed to crossing safety gains.
“As rail safety advocates, we are encouraged to see double-digit drops in the number of highway-rail grade crossing collisions, deaths and injuries, as well as pedestrian rail trespass injuries,” says Operation Lifesaver, Inc. President Helen M. Sramek. “These new figures show law enforcement efforts, improvements in highway-rail engineering and signal technology, closure of unnecessary crossings, and Operation Lifesaver's partnership efforts with state, federal and local agencies to raise rail safety awareness are helping to make our communities safer.”
Rail property trespass incidents, often resulting in injuries and fatalities, continue to pose a challenge. Though trespass numbers declined (injuries dropped from 429 in '08 to 338 in '09 and deaths fell in '09 to 434 from 458 one year earlier), they did not achieve the record low marks set by crossing incidents, Sramek notes. Twenty states - including California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Indiana, Louisiana and Missouri - saw increases in deaths resulting from trespass incidents; trespass injuries rose in 9 states.
“Few people realize that in this country, a person or a vehicle is hit by a train about every three hours,” Sramek says. “Although the FRA numbers indicate a 5.2% drop in trespassing fatalities in 2009, it's important to remember that trespassers still account for the largest number of rail-related fatalities in the United States. The good news is that trespassing incidents are preventable; we need to successfully educate people to stay off the tracks, understand and obey crossing laws, and use common sense around trains.”
Preliminary year end data released by the Federal Railroad Administration show the biggest declines involved grade crossing-related injuries, which dropped 28.3% to 683 from 953 in 2008. Grade crossing fatalities, a total of 289 the previous year, fell 14.2% to 248 in 2009. Operation Lifesaver also notes that in 2009, 11 states experienced increases in total highway-rail collisions from 2008 levels. Fatalities resulting from vehicle-train crashes increased in 16 states in 2009 from the previous year, and crossing injuries rose in 10 states
Operation Lifesaver's mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights of way. A national network of volunteers provides free presentations on rail safety. Go to www.oli.org for more information.
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, please contact our national headquarters office at 703-739-0308. If you are a reporter on deadline, please contact:
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 all 50 states and a national office in Alexandria, VA, that supports state programs, develops education materials, and creates public awareness campaigns for audiences of all ages.
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