WisDOT: Awareness Day aims to eliminate rail-related deaths

For more information, contact:

Jim Tracey, Rail Safety Coordinator

(608) 267-7946, james.tracey@dot.wi.gov

Madison – Every two hours in the United States, a train/vehicle crash occurs. On average, two fatalities occur each day as a result of vehicles or people connecting with trains. A motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a crash with a train as in other motor vehicle crashes.

These are some of the vexing statistics that Operation Lifesaver – a national organization with coordinators in all 50 states – aims to eliminate. To help Wisconsin meet that goal, Governor Jim Doyle has issued a proclamation making May 12, 2010 Operation Lifesaver Awareness Day in Wisconsin.

Jim Tracey, state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver, and an employee at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, believes that safety at highway/railroad grade crossings should be a priority for drivers and pedestrians throughout the year. “Last year, there were two fatalities and 17 injuries resulting from 46 highway/railroad grade crossing crashes,” Tracey said. “We hope to get those numbers down to zero, and we’ll keep up our education efforts until that happens.”

Wisconsin has over 4,000 public highway/railroad grade crossings, and only 47 percent of them have flashing lights and/or gates. But all crossings have signs and/or pavement markings to alert drivers that they are approaching a crossing. At all crossings, Tracey said, slow down, look and listen for an approaching train before driving across the tracks.

Trains can move in either direction at any time, and freight trains do not travel on a predictable schedule. Also, modern trains are quieter than they used to be, so they can approach with no warning sound. “An approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think,” Tracey added.

Tracey, along with a number of volunteers he has trained around the state, will meet with groups of students, driver ed classes, service organizations, and other gatherings to talk about and give presentations on highway/railroad crossing safety. To inquire about setting up a presentation, contact Jim Tracey by email at: james.tracey@dot.wi.gov; or by phone at 1-800-WIS-RAIL (947-7245).