Operation Lifesaver Launches New Public Awareness Campaign To Reduce Train-Related Pedestrian Deaths

WASHINGTON, DC – Operation Lifesaver, Inc., the U.S. Department of Transportation and major railroad companies have launch the Common Sense campaign to reduce the number of pedestrians who are killed and injured when trespassing around tracks and trains. The campaign is focused on 18 to 34-year-olds, who make up the largest percentage of railroad-related pedestrian casualties.

The Common Sense campaign is designed to educate the public about the risks of trespassing on railroad property. The campaign includes an interactive website, internet ads, videos, and local events. It will be test-marketed in areas where pedestrian rail trespass incidents frequently occur, including targeted local markets. The internet ads, videos, safety tips, and other information are online at www.CommonSenseUseIt.com

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. More than 870 people died or were injured in railroad-related trespassing incidents in 2008, and the numbers have topped 9,000 in the last ten years.

“Many Americans have no idea that walking or playing around train tracks, fishing from a railroad bridge, or riding their all-terrain vehicle on railroad  tracks is potentially deadly, and always illegal,” said Helen M. Sramek, president of Operation Lifesaver, Inc.

“Young adults also may be distracted by cell phones, texting, or listening to 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 Cliff Stayton, a former locomotive engineer.

The Common Sense campaign kicked off with a news conference at the National Press Club, with remarks by Helen M. Sramek, president of Operation Lifesaver, Inc.; Michael Ward, chairman, president and CEO, CSX Corporation; Joseph Szabo, administrator, Federal Railroad Administration; Cliff Stayton, former railroad engineer and director, community affairs and safety, CSX; and Jack C. Hanagriff, senior police officer, Houston Police Department and Federal Railroad Administration law enforcement liaison.

States with the highest number of pedestrian rail trespass deaths in 2008 include: California, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and Georgia.

Federal Railroad Administrator Szabo notes that 18 to 34-year-olds represent nearly 36 percent of all the rail-related pedestrian casualties that occurred last year. “Unfortunately, railroad trespass fatalities continue to occur far too often. Through this public-private safety partnership, the Common Sense initiative will raise public awareness and understanding about the inherent risks of trespassing.”

“Pedestrian injuries and fatalities on railroad tracks are preventable,” said CSX Corporation’s Ward. “People don’t often understand the impact of these incidents on train crews. We are pleased to work with Operation Lifesaver, the FRA and our industry colleagues in this important effort.”

Hanagriff gave a police officer’s perspective on the issue. "A legitimate goal of law enforcement should be to keep trains moving through their jurisdictions; public education and enforcement strategies assist in achieving this goal while keeping the community safe," he said.

Sramek noted the significance of the major railroads joining together to sponsor a new campaign targeted to a specific demographic.  “This united effort on the part of our industry partners, coupled with support from FRA, allows us to disseminate important safety messages using media that will reach this age group,” she said.

“Operation Lifesaver’s proven safety education programs, along with the efforts of the rail industry and public transportation agencies, have saved lives at highway-rail intersections over the past 20 years,” Sramek continued. “Now we’ll be applying that focus to reducing rail trespassers, using new media to help get people’s attention.”

Railroad companies partnering with Operation Lifesaver’s Common Sense campaign include CSX, Union Pacific, Amtrak, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, and Kansas City Southern.  

About Operation Lifesaver

Operation Lifesaver, Inc. is a national, non-profit safety education group whose goal is to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railroad rights of way. Operation Lifesaver has programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with trained and certified presenters who give free safety talks to community groups, schools, school bus drivers, truck drivers and community organizations to raise awareness of the need for caution around railroad tracks and trains. More information, including safety tips and how to schedule a free safety presentation in your community, can be found at www.oli.org.

Common Sense Safety Tips For Pedestrians

1.   The only safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a public crossing—designated by the crossbuck.

2.  Turn your cell phone and MP3 players off when you’re near train tracks.  Forget texting, as it could 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.   Look both ways and listen before crossing train tracks.  Expect a train at any time.

4.   Anywhere other than a public crossing, stay off and away from the tracks.

5.   Tracks, trestles, rail yards and equipment are private property.  If you hunt, fish or ride your ATV on the tracks, you are trespassing.

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]oli.org 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]oli.org

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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